Asbestos: What You Should Know
Friable asbestos is a material containing asbestos that when dry, is in powder form or may be crushed or pulverised into powder form using your hand. This material poses a higher risk of exposing people to airborne asbestos fibres. Friable asbestos was commonly used in industrial applications rather than the home, although loose-fill asbestos has been found in homes in NSW and the ACT, where it was sold as ceiling and wall insulation.
Asbestos is a naturally-occurring mineral and can typically be found in rock, sediment or soil. It has strong fibres that are heat resistant and have good insulating properties. You can’t see asbestos fibres with the naked eye and because they are very light, they can be blown long distances by the wind.
Non-friable or bonded asbestos products are solid and you can’t crumble them in your hand—the asbestos has been mixed with a bonding compound such as cement. If non-friable asbestos is damaged or degraded it may become friable and will then pose a higher risk of fibre release.
For the eye of the unsuspecting public, asbestos is a miracle material that protects their houses and other materials from easily contracting fire. But, behind these advantages to homeowners, the industrial workers suffer from health hazards that are oftentimes fatal. Asbestos was primarily used to fireproof houses; it was also popular as a roofing. However, during the recent years, many diseases have been related to it and it is apparent that many more will be discovered that can be directly rooted to asbestos. But asbestos, as is, does not really cause the diseases. Instead, the culprit is known to be the asbestos fiber that comes from the damaged asbestos materials. These accumulate through continuous dilapidation of asbestos-based products, say the roofing of your attic. Once there are conditions that led to the damaging of the asbestos, it is likely that the material will release asbestos fiber that can be sent to the air. The danger now comes when a person inhales the asbestos fiber since it will likely stay in the air passages - the lungs, thus leaving fibers that can cause asbestos diseases.
A total ban on asbestos came into effect in Australia on 31 December 2003. It is illegal to make it, use it or import it from another country. Workers must not handle asbestos unless they have been trained and hold a licence that is current and appropriate for the type of work being done.
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