Property investment is one of the most crucial decisions you’ll ever make, and it’s not only because there’s hard-earned money involved. Though often overlooked by buyers and lessees, a property can affect your health and wellness too. From the type of materials used to the quality of construction, the property you select will impact your life.
Asbestos, for instance, is a lethal material you wouldn’t want to risk exposing yourself into. Exposure to asbestos is known to cause illnesses like lung cancer and mesothelioma. Unfortunately, asbestos was a popular construction material until the middle of the 1980s.
In this article, we’ll help you avoid asbestos exposure by discussing its characteristics and identifying the most common materials where it’s found.
Should I be scared of asbestos?
Yes, asbestos is not notorious for nothing. Every year, around 600 deaths are associated with asbestos exposure. A lot of health risks are linked to asbestos exposure, including asbestosis, lung cancer, and mesothelioma. The tiny abrasive fibres of asbestos can damage the lung tissue once inhaled. The disease, however, takes decades to develop after exposure. The substance can lay dormant in your body before the onset of the disease. As such, those who file compensation cases are often older, some are as old as 85 years old.
A number of asbestos-related claims have been filed in Australia, many of which became landmark cases. While the claimants prevailed in the lawsuit, sadly, they eventually succumb to the illness caused by asbestos.
According to the Australian Mesothelioma Registry, there were 641 reported deaths due to due to mesothelioma in 2014. In fact, Australia holds the second highest death rate from mesothelioma in the world. Since the 1980s, more than 10,000 individuals died because of the illness. Cancer specialists even expect that at least 25,000 will die from it over the next four decades.
Asbestos in construction
From the 1950s to the mid-1980s, asbestos was popularly used in various industries. At about this time, Australia posted the highest per capita rate of asbestos use worldwide.
No wonder. The properties of asbestos made it a construction gem. It was cheap, fire resistant, and durable. It was also versatile, allowing it to be useful in different industries.
Various industries such as construction, textile, mining, engineering, transportation, and marine utilised the material for building. Asbestos was specially designed for insulation. It was used in roofs and chimneys.
James Hardie Industries led the asbestos market during the 20th century. The company manufactured a wide range of building and insulation products. Houses built before 1990 will most likely contain asbestos.
In NSW, around 52%, or approximately 70,000 houses were built using asbestos. In Victoria, a whopping 98% of houses constructed in the 1970s were estimated to contain asbestos products.
It was only in the mid-1980s that asbestos use declined. Housing projects built before that time was covered with asbestos-clad cement and roofing.
Where was asbestos mostly used?
Asbestos is very good for fireproofing and thermal control. Its properties allow it to withstand high temperature and not burn under any conditions. As such, it was incorporated in products to make them fire-resistant.
During its heyday, asbestos could be found in over 3,000 products across the country. Although largely used in construction materials like water pipes, floor tiles, floor coverings, insulation boards, and sewage pipes, its usage was broad in scope.
Automobile companies utilised it in vehicle brakes, gaskets, and clutches, while in manufacturing, it was used in building machinery and lifts. It was even used for insulating ropes and mattresses.
Here’s some of the most common material that contains asbestos:
Short for fibrous cement sheet, fibro is cement clad with asbestos. It is most commonly called asbestos cement sheet or AC sheet. It provided a solution for roofing and siding projects for much of the 20th century.
Predominantly sold by James Hardie Industries until the mid-1980s, fibro was marketed as fireproof. It was used to imitate more expensive materials like bricks, stones, slates, and shingles. Sold at a more affordable price, the AC sheets became the preferred material for construction and renovation.
Asbestos was also largely mixed in sealants, mastics, and cement utilised in construction and shipbuilding. These adhesives were employed as a replacement for nails and screws. Builders found asbestos as a more practical alternative since when mixed with synthetic glues it results in durable and nearly fireproof adhesives.
These asbestos adhesives were used in installing wood floors, vinyl tiles, and other types of flooring. They were also applied in wall panels, wallpaper, and ceiling tiles installations.
Pipe lagging is a method of insulating and sealing pipes with an adhesive-soaked cloth. Back then, asbestos was considered the most reliable material for pipe lagging. Since it can endure high-heat and high-combustion environments, it was an ideal material for insulating pipes.
Boilers and furnaces
Boilers, furnaces, and fireboxes were finished with asbestos liners back in the day. Because of its high resistance to heat, asbestos provided an incredible method of controlling heat. Industrial facilities and ships primarily made use of asbestos liners in fireproofing their boilers and furnaces.
Electrical panels and wire insulation
Asbestos has a unique cotton-like consistency. Its fluffiness slows down heat transfer from one material to another. Because of this property, asbestos became a preferred solution in making electrical distribution systems safer from the 1930s until the 1980s.
It was made into ‘asbestos lumber’, a panelling that was sold as a fireproof alternative to wood boards. Asbestos was also applied as a shielding for electrical components, insulating wires, wrapping cables, and lining electrical boxes. Moulded asbestos plastic was also used to make a number of electrical components.
The fibrous and tiny nature of asbestos allowed it to be woven into clothes and garments. Manufacturers found its fireproofing property useful in making protective suits for firefighters, mitts for foundry workers, and aprons for homeowners. They also mixed asbestos fibres with other textile materials to improve the flexibility of the fabrics.
Contact EBI for professional building inspection in Newcastle and Hunter
As a property investor, you must be wise and cautious. Scrutinise the materials used in your properties. Especially for those built when asbestos was widely used, it’s wise to consult industry experts and specialists. In this kind of issues, it’s best not to rely on yourself to do the dirty work.