Asbestos is a mineral fibre that is identifiable only with the use of a special kind of microscope. Asbestos fibres used to be added to certain construction materials for fire resistance and heat insulation purposes.
Older Australian homes are most likely to contain asbestos materials. Friable asbestos may be lagging on pipes, while broken asbestos cement materials may be present in demolished properties. Common old vinyl floor tiles and disused outbuildings may also have the material.
Asbestos disposal experts from ActionAsbestos.com.au cite typical areas at home that may contain asbestos:
The exterior part of the house, particularly the corrugated wall and roof sheeting, may contain asbestos. Ridge capping, roof guttering, and imitation of brick cladding may also have the materials. Other areas include cement sheeting in walls, insulation in wood heaters, and patching and joint compounds for walls and ceilings.
Asbestos may also be present in the kitchen, bathroom, and laundry. It can be found on walls, ceilings, splashbacks, and vinyl floor tiles. It may also be found in the underlying sheeting of ceramic tiles and backing of vinyl sheet flooring.
Apart from the areas mentioned above, asbestos may also be found on old ironing board covers, behind electrical meter boards, and hot-water pipes in masonry walls. Old and low-density fibre boards and some plastic sealant ceiling panels may also have asbestos.
Fences, garden sheds, and garages may also have the material. Asbestos may also be present in outside toilets, kennels, and in dumped waste materials.
Asbestos may affect your health if you breathe in the fibres. It can cause lung inflammation, which may take years to develop. Undisturbed asbestos in good condition, however, do not pose risks because the fibres remain bound together.
If you suspect that you have asbestos, you can leave alone if it is in good condition. If the material is slightly damaged, however, be sure to limit the access to the area and do not touch it. You can also contact an asbestos consultant to get advice on handling material.