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Asbestos is the name given to a group of fibrous silicate minerals which were mined in Australia and overseas and used for a range of products including building materials. In Australia, asbestos cement materials were first manufactured in the 1920s and were commonly used in the manufacture of residential building materials from the mid-1940s until the late 1980s. During the 1980s asbestos cement materials were phased out in favour of asbestos-free products. From 31 December 2003, the total ban on manufacture, use, reuse, import, transport, storage or sale of all forms of asbestos came into force.

Many houses built before 1990 therefore contain asbestos cement materials, especially in the eaves, internal and external wall cladding, ceilings (particularly in wet areas such as bathrooms and laundries) and fences.

If asbestos products are in good condition and are well maintained, they do not pose a health risk. However if you are thinking of renovating or demolishing your house, you should make yourself aware of all asbestos products in your house and ensure these products are removed responsibly.

Type of Asbestos

Asbestos can be either friable or non-friable.

When it's dry, friable asbestos can be crumbled, pulverised or reduced to powder by hand pressure. This might include previously non-friable asbestos that has become broken or damaged. Friable asbestos poses a greater health risk because the fibres are more likely to become airborne when they're disturbed

Non- friable asbestos is usually bonded or mixed with cement or a similar material. It can not be crumbled, pulverised or reduced to powder by hand pressure. 97% of asbestos containing materials are non friable, for example, Asbestos cement sheeting - if accidentally damaged or broken may release a few fibres initially but will not continue to do so.

Most people think about asbestos as material on the outside of your home - wall sheeting, eaves, carport ceilings, corrugated roofing and fencing, however it was also used extensively on the inside of your home - as the sheeting on the bathroom, laundry, kitchen walls and ceilings.

What do I do if I have asbestos?

If you think that you may have asbestos in your home contact a licensed asbestos removalist. They will be able to confirm if it is asbestos and also remove it safely for you.

What not to do?

Do not use any power tools Asbestos fibres can be released if power tools are used.

Never cut into or break a fibro sheet, instead have the whole sheet removed by a licensed asbestos removalist and replace it with a non-asbestos product.

Do not water blast or scrub with a stiff broom or brush it. If the material has been accidentally water blasted or has suddenly deteriorated in some way, you should call a licensed asbestos removalist.

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