Over the past decade or so, a lot of information has come to light about the dangers of asbestos, and in particular there have been widespread media stories about how a Canberra-based company called Mr Fluffy had installed loose fill asbestos insulation in a number of homes and buildings, thus contaminating them. With the recent reports about a small number of homes being affected in NSW, you’re probably wondering if your home needs asbestos testing? SERS have been providing cost effective asbestos testing across Australia and have provided some facts below.
Also known as raw crushed asbestos, this form of insulation was commonly used for insulation in the 1960’s and 1970’s, as people were unaware of the dangers it posed. Originally it was considered suitable for insulation purposes as it had excellent fire- and heat-retardant properties.
When it discovered that asbestos causes severe respiratory diseases such as lung cancer and mesothelioma, the substance was banned from use in all building materials.
Where is it found?
First, try not to get anxious that your home may be contaminated by loose fill asbestos, as it is only a minority of homes that have been affected.
If your home was built after 1990, it is unlikely that there were loose fill asbestos insulating materials used. Before that, it is quite likely asbestos was used, but it’s important to remember that not all asbestos is friable, and if it is bonded, it does not present a danger.
The most common insulation in Australian roofing is pink batts, which does not contain asbestos.
Loose fill asbestos is normally found in ceilings, and it’s important to remember that it won’t cause any harmful health issues as long as it isn’t disturbed. Asbestos becomes detrimental when it is released into the air, as the small particles can be inhaled and ingested, causing damage and scarring to the lungs and membranes. These fibres can drift from the ceilings from other parts of the house
The best known company, Mr Fluffy, mostly operated in the ACT and only worked on some homes. Approximately 120 homes have been identified to have loose fill asbestos in NSW, and the NSW Government has measures in place to deal with homes that contain it.
What to do if I suspect my home contains loose fill asbestos insulation?
Your insulation could be made up of many things, from fiberglass to cellulose. Do not, under any circumstances, go up and investigate yourself, because you may be exposing yourself to the tiny fibres that cause deadly diseases such as mesothelioma, and you may not know about it for a number of years.
It’s important to contact a company such as SERS, who are NATA-accredited in asbestos testing, and can do so safely and without risk to you or your family. Please don’t take a sample yourself. Simply call 1300 534 591 and SERS will send a qualified surveyor to your home for testing.
What is the Government policy if my home contains loose fill asbestos insulation?
So, what to do next if you find loose fill asbestos on your property? If you wish to sell your home or to rent it to another party, it is imperative to disclose the presence of loose fill asbestos.
The thought of demolishing your home may be a difficult one, but it is the safest way to guarantee no future problems for yourself, your family and anyone else who may live on the land.
New South Wales established a Voluntary Purchase and Demolition Program that you will be eligible for if your home contains loose fill asbestos. This program gives you two choices:
- To sell your land and your home to the NSW Government
- To sell your home to the NSW Government, but retain ownership of the land. This allows you to rebuild a new home once the previous house has been demolished and the land is clear of asbestos contamination.
Please note that if you own land that is greater than 2 hectares, you must opt for the second choice.
Although demolition is usually considered an expensive or dangerous process, by working with highly skilled contractors, such as SERS, everything is controlled by professionals, thus eliminating almost any risk.
A company like SERS will dispose of the asbestos safely and if you have chosen option 1, you may also be eligible for a package to assist with your relocation expenses from the NSW Government.
If leaving your home is simply not an option, make sure you understand all the risks involved and the potential for future issues. Take steps to ensure that your ceiling is fully intact and that an expert, carefully seals any gaps where asbestos could escape through. Contact SERS to speak to our highly skilled personnel will offer advice. SERS can also send a specialised asbestos removalist to your home to remediate the issue.
If you’d like to know more about your rights and responsibilities as a home owner in an asbestos-contaminated property, then please visit the NSW Government’s Fair Trading website. If you are in a different territory please visit your local government website where you’ll also find more detail on loose fill asbestos in your area and the Government’s response.
If you have any suspicions that your home might contain loose fill asbestos insulation, it’s vital that a sample is tested as soon as possible.
SERS practice safe asbestos testing and remediation, maximizing salvageable materials and protecting the environment. This doesn’t mean it’s more expensive, just more effective. For affordable asbestos testing, please call 1300 534 591 or fill in our contact form – our specialised team are happy to assist with your queries and can advise on the next steps for you.