Asbestos: 5 Essentials Agents Should Know

Asbestos … Did You Know?

It wasn’t until I had children that Asbestos really ever meant anything to me. 

It was when we were renovating a house that it really hit home. We had decided to scrap the ceiling in the living room and my wife was a few months pregnant. It was one of those old ornate,1950′s style ceilings with patterns, which to me, looked like normal stipple coat.

We were covered from head to toe in the resulting dust and flakes!

After scrapping about a third of it off, my brother-in-law, who lived around the corner, came over to see how we were progressing – I think he was a bit parched!

Anyway he picked up a piece and said the dreaded ‘A’ word!

Neither of us hadn’t really encountered asbestos before, so we started panicking a bit.

We decided to get it tested and luckily came back negative.

So we got pretty lucky really and because of our indifferent approach or might I say ignorant approach, we put a lot of people at risk.

…turns out we aren’t the only ones!

What Is Asbestos?

It’s actually a group of minerals if we want to be exact, that are made up of lots of small fibres. They are resistant to fire, chemicals and heat.

Because of the strong retardant properties they became a popular choice for building materials such as:

  1. Cladding and roofing
  2. Textured ceilings and wall surfaces that were sprayed on
  3. Thermal protection for backing boards around fireplaces
  4. Drainage spouting
  5. Insulation around heaters, hot water cylinders and pipes
  6. Different types of textiles

… Incidentally it was also used for oven gloves, ironing board pads, simmer mats for stoves etc

Pretty handy stuff eh?

Mining of asbestos started around 4000 years ago and became popular with manufacturers in the late 19th century.

Toxicity - In the early 1900s researchers began to notice a large number of early deaths and lung problems in asbestos mining towns

If we want to get a tiny bit technical, it’s made up of 6 different naturally occurring minerals, which we won’t go into. But I’ve put a link back there if you’re interested.

How Does Asbestos Harm Our Health

The Asbestos Removal Guide

Diagram showing the damage asbestos can cause in the body: scarring of the lung tis-sue; pleural plaques – thickening of membranes around the lung; mesothelioma – ma-lignant tumours or cancers that can develop around the lungs or intestine.

Asbestos becomes a risk when it is inhaled as a fine dust. It increases with the frequency of exposure and the number fibres replaced.

When it is inhaled it is the finer fibres that are difficult to remove and can be lodged in the lung or go onto further penetrate the body.

The following are some of the diseases that Asbestos causes:

Mesthelioma – Cancers and malignant tumors, which develop around the lungs and intestines.

Asbestosis – Scarring of lung tissue

Plural Plaques – Thickens membranes around the lungs

Lung Cancer

So How Do You Identify Asbestos?

The Bad news is … this is a big topic and requires lots of images and references, The good news is,  we’re going to explore it in bite size chunks and make it easy-to-understand, so you can become an expert at it … and your clients can reference it at anytime, if they need to know more.

But what I’ll say for now is, that it can’t be identified by looking at it. It has to be labelled or identified through a sample and analyzed by a professional with a white coat sitting in a laboratory.

If you need to get a sample tested, you can find a health protection officer at any public health unit of your local

A list of laboratories can be found on the NATA(National Association Testing Authorities) website –

Asbestos In The Home

What should you do?

If you find asbestos in a home, there are protection measures, which should be discussed with a health protection officer.

But some of the options are: Leaving it as is, removing it or sealing, encapsulating or enclosing it.

  • Enclosing involves constructing something around the area effected.
  • Encapsulating happens when a coating is applies to the area, which soaks through to the effected area, hardens and prevents it from loosening and crumbling as it ages.
  • Sealing it with paint will again, prevent it from loosening and crumbling.

Identifying Common Areas Around The Home

An illustration of where in a house asbestos may be found, as described in the list beside it.

  1. Roofing and Siding Shingles -  Shingles being overlapping elements, which are typically laid in overlapping rows and are flat and rectangular.
  2. Homes constructed between 1930 and 1950 may have insulation which is asbestos.
  3. Can appear in textured paint and compounds used for patching on the ceiling joists and walls.
  4. Old gas fire places with artificial embers and ashes may have asbestos
  5. Old Stove top pads may contain asbestos compounds
  6. Wood-burning stoves with protection around floors and walls with asbestos cement sheets, millboard (stiff gray pasteboard) and some paper.
  7. Vinyl flooring tiles and the adhesive to hold the tiles can contain asbestos
  8. Asbestos blanket and tape around hot water and steam pipes as well as asbestos coated material for the same use.
  9. Coal and furnaces as well as door gaskets may have asbestos insulation.

Next issue we’ll go a bit deeper into identifying the elements around the home like:

What is Super Six

Below is a link to a great resource – A guide to the safe removal of asbestos products in Australia