DIY Asbestos Removal - Is it Safe?

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DIY Asbestos Removal

Many people ask the question is DIY asbestos removal legal? is it safe? This article will tell you everything you need to know before making your decision – first, some basics.

What is asbestos?

Asbestos is one of the most dangerous products used in building materials. It can take many forms including wall sheeting, ceiling panels (asbestos cement sheeting), corrugated roofing, vinyl tiles, seamless vinyl and much, much more.

When disturbed these materials can generate airborne asbestos fibres. A single bundle of fibres no bigger than a rice grain, can release thousands of breathable fibres into the air.

What do you mean by disturbing asbestos?

Disturbing asbestos includes actions like breaking or snapping, but the most dangerous actions are those that involve power tools such as drills, sanders, grinders and water blasters (e.g. Gurneys). It is illegal in Australia for anyone (even licensed professionals) to water blast asbestos materials.

What happens when you’re exposed to asbestos?

Let’s say you go ahead with the DIY asbestos removal project, here’s what can happen:

While the body has a strong ability to deal with and reject foreign particles such as asbestos fibres, the shape and structure of asbestos is such that these measures are only partly effective. A portion of the fibres you breathe will become lodged in the lungs where they will remain, for life.

How many fibres can build up in the lungs under normal exposure scenarios over a lifetime? Millions. Literally millions.

What are the health effects?

In the past one of the main health effects of asbestos exposure was asbestosis, this is a scarring of the lung tissue caused from an excessive build-up of asbestos fibres in the lungs and the associated scar tissue formed in response. This leads to impaired lung function which can escalate to a level where every breath is a battle and the sufferer cannot survive without oxygen supply.

New cases of asbestosis in Australia are rare these days since the manufacture of asbestos items was banned and due to the strong regulation of asbestos removal since post 2003.

Today one of the main health effects is a cancer called mesothelioma which is only caused by asbestos. Unlike other cancers, mesothelioma is untreatable and is usually not detected until the late stages. People diagnosed with mesothelioma usually have about 6 months to live.

It is said by some authorities that a single asbestos fibre in the lungs is sufficient to cause mesothelioma.

Any other good news?

Warts. Asbestos if handled can cause warts to form on the skin that need to be cut or frozen out. Our skin is just as unable to deal with asbestos fibres as our lung tissue is.

So, should I remove asbestos myself?

But back to the topic at hand – DIY asbestos removal– you still want to know about that right?

Well the second thing you should know to the health effects is that in most cases DIY asbestos removal is illegal. Under the current regulations for all Australian states and territories, you need a Class B asbestos removal license to remove any amount of bonded asbestos materials greater than 10 square metres. You need a class A license to remove any amount of friable asbestos.

You could do it yourself legally if and only if the material were bonded and less than 10 square metres in total. But given the risks, do you really want to do that?

Best course of action

In short, DIY asbestos removal is dangerous and in most cases illegal. The best thing to do is to avoid disturbing the asbestos and to have any removal handled by a professional. What price would you put on your good health?

If you’re unsure about where the asbestos is in your home or workplace, you can have an asbestos survey and report prepared by Greenlight. The report will detail the locations, extent, friability, condition, a risk assessment and management recommendations along with photos for your whole workplace or home.

Many people are unaware that a report such as this is required by law for all workplaces. Greenlight have helped thousands of homes and companies meet their compliance and safety needs, call us today for a free quote.

Call Greenlight now:   03 9048 4411