Renovators to take care

Take care: There is no evidence that a safe threshold exists (or minimum exposure level) to prevent the adverse health effects of the use of asbestos. Photo: Shutterstock

Take care: There is no evidence that a safe threshold exists (or minimum exposure level) to prevent the adverse health effects of the use of asbestos. Photo: Shutterstock

Chrysotile is asbestos, the term used for a group of six naturally occurring mineral fibres - chrysotile is the most common and major commercial form of asbestos.

Medically it is clear that chrysotile can cause mesothelioma (cancer of the lung or abdominal cavity linings), including the most common cancer associated with asbestos exposure, cancer of the lung, as well as associated cancer of the larynx, ovaries, pharynx, stomach and colorectal cancer.

There are two roles in the asbestos industry, one is the licensed asbestos assessor/NATA accredited lab - involved in identifying the asbestos and deciding how it should be managed. And the second is the asbestos removal contractor who actually physically does the asbestos removal.

Australia began restricting the use of asbestos in the 1960s and implemented a total asbestos ban on December 31, 2003.

Despite this, there has been a rising trend in mesothelioma cases since the early 1980s, and it is projected that there will be about 19,000 mesothelioma cases diagnosed between 2015 and the end of the century (ASEA reports, 2016).

A major concern is that even where use is appropriately regulated, chrysotile-containing building products (e.g. roof tiling, water pipes) become damaged and release asbestos fibres into the environment during the course of building maintenance, demolition and disposal of building waste, and as a consequence of natural disasters.

Such exposure would be expected to occur later than the original (controlled) installation. This risk can be wholly averted by ceasing to use such products.

Workplaces can put measures in place that can minimise exposure risk, using a hierarchy of controls, but these will not prevent exposure completely unless the asbestos (or the hazard) is eliminated.

The existence or new use of asbestos-containing materials in the built environment (homes or workplaces), places the broader community at risk also, as building materials require maintenance over time, which inevitably includes surface treatment or complete removal, and the potential release of asbestos fibres.

Landlords

If you have undertaken testing for asbestos (even if none was found), removed asbestos and/or reinstated property parts (for example, walls) that were removed due to asbestos, you may be able to claim a tax deduction on these costs.

This applies to rental or commercial properties, or your home if it is also a place of business. Asbestos removal by a licenced removalist and reinstatement of a part of the property after asbestos is removed.

Asbestos risk during and after a fire

During the actual fire, very low concentrations of asbestos fibres may be released in the fire plume.

Avoid the smoke plume while the use of water and foam will assist in limiting the concentration and spread of airborne fibres.

When exposed to fire and high temperatures, asbestos-containing products may suddenly break, causing the product to degrade.

Spalling of asbestos cement products can cause the release of fibres, typically in the early stages of the fire.

The effect is the distribution of debris, often found some distance away.

After a fire has been extinguished, the debris may contain asbestos materials. Prevent the disturbance of materials and damaged structure as much as possible, and follow safe work procedures.

See asbestos.qld.gov.au

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