Asbestos FAQ - Everything You Need to Know About Asbestos Removal

Introduction

We think of our home as a safe haven. It’s the one place we know that can make us feel safe. It’s a place that relieves us from stress, helps us relax and allows us to spend quality time with our loved ones. But what if it becomes toxic? What do you do if you learn that your home is making you sick? What if you discover that your home is harboring asbestos?

Asbestos is notorious for causing debilitating diseases like cancer and knowing that it’s lingering in the walls of our home can be a very scary experience. Years ago, building contractors used asbestos in building materials because of its desirable properties but they didn’t know then what we know now. This is why we need to be familiar with asbestos, know what it is, how to manage it and what to do if we ever find asbestos in our homes. If and when you discover asbestos in your home, we recommend you hire a licensed asbestos removal professional right away.

What is Asbestos?

We think of our home as a safe haven. It’s the one place we know that can make us feel safe. It’s a place that relieves us from stress, helps us relax and allows us to spend quality time with our loved ones. But what if it becomes toxic? What do you do if you learn that your home is making you sick? What if you discover that your home is harboring asbestos?

Asbestos is notorious for causing debilitating diseases like cancer and knowing that it’s lingering in the walls of our home can be a very scary experience. Years ago, building contractors used asbestos in building materials because of its desirable properties but they didn’t know then what we know now. This is why we need to be familiar with asbestos, know what it is, how to manage it and what to do if we ever find asbestos in our homes. If and when you discover asbestos in your home, we recommend you hire a licensed asbestos removal professional right away. The first discovery of asbestos dates back to 4000 years ago. Nevertheless, it was only during the late part of the 19th century when large-scale mining companies started extracting massive amounts of asbestos. The demand for asbestos rapidly grew since then owing to its desirable properties. When asbestos is present in your home, only a licensed asbestos removal professional is allowed to remove or break the material that contains asbestos fibres.

What is Asbestos

Asbestos falls under six types: chrysotile or the white asbestos, amosite or the brown asbestos, crocidolite or the blue asbestos, tremolite, anthophyllite and actinolite. The popularity and the demand for asbestos continued to grow until the 20th century. However, today, the general public is being warned of its potential health hazards.

Why Is It Dangerous?

Asbestos becomes a threat to our health when we get to inhale fibres that are suspended in the air. Breathing in asbestos puts us at risk of asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma among others. Generally, we are all exposed to asbestos but only to a minimal degree. According to studies, background air usually contains around 10 to 200 asbestos fibres for every 1000 litres of air. A person’s ability to acquire an asbestos-related disease depends on his or her exposure to asbestos. It would also depend on the level of exposure, the duration of exposure, the duration since the first exposure, the type of asbestos fibre he or she was exposed to and the simultaneous exposure to tobacco smoke and other forms of carcinogens.

Why Is It Dangerous

What Diseases Are Caused By Asbestos?

When we inhale asbestos fibres, unfortunately, these fibres stay and cling to our lungs. These microscopic fibres can settle in our lung tissues causing inflammation to the tissues, scarring and eventually developing into a serious asbestos-related disease. However, it takes years or even decades for the disease to develop.

The three common diseases caused by asbestos include pleural plaques, asbestosis and mesothelioma.

Pleural Plaques

What are Pleural Plaques?

When a person is exposed to asbestos, he or she may develop pleural plaques. These plaques are patches of thickened fibres found on the pleural membrane. It can slowly progress and calcify. The calcification is easily seen on x-rays. Generally, pleural plaque manifests at least ten years after asbestos exposure. The extensiveness of the plaque is usually linked to the intensity and duration of the exposure. It’s worth mentioning that pleural plaques do not cause noticeable impairment in lung function and a person’s overall health and well being. There are many people who have had short exposures to asbestos who eventually developed pleural plaques.

Pleural plaques are generally asymptomatic but the knowledge of having pleural plaques often generate anxiety to many people leading to symptoms of chest tightness and dyspnea. Less then 1% of individuals with pleural plaques complain of a grating sensation in their chest. Besides chest tightness, pleural plaques have no physical signs.

What are the Symptoms of Pleural Plaque?

Pleural plaques are a clear manifestation that a person has previously been exposed to asbestos. Pleural plaque is the most common type of asbestos-related disease. Usually, patients with pleural plaque show no symptoms but there are those who complain of chest tightness and chest pain. Usually these symptoms subside after taking narcotic analgesics. Like all other asbestos diseases, pleural plaques have no effective treatment.

Asbestosis

What is Asbestosis?

Asbestosis is a chronic lung disease that is caused by the inhalation of asbestos. Although it causes lung scarring, the condition is non-cancerous. In asbestosis, the lung tissues are damaged but the airways aren’t. The scarring of the lungs is a result of asbestos fibres penetrating the lung tissue. Once they make their way in, it then causes lung tissue inflammation. When this is not treated, it can lead to more extensive scarring. The alveoli get damaged and scarred as well. The alveoli are air sacks where the exchange of oxygen and oxygen diffusion into the blood stream takes place. The scarring in the lung tissues makes your lungs rigid, which explains why patients with asbestosis complain of difficulty breathing. When the lungs become inelastic, it will not be able to sufficiently exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide. Ultimately, the alveolar gas exchange units will be significantly reduced not just in number but in function as well.

What are the Symptoms of Asbestosis?

Cases of asbestosis are usually progressive. Breathlessness upon exertion may worsen overtime. As asbestosis advances, the scarring becomes even more extensive and this will cause your lungs to shrink. The shrinking of your lungs will make breathing difficult. It will take a number of years before damage to your lung’s capacity is detected this is because our lungs naturally have a reserve. However, as the disease condition advances, the lung capacity is slowly reduced. Individuals who have asbestosis are more prone to suffer from pneumonia, bronchitis and heart disease. As a result, patients with asbestosis often manifest an irregular heart rhythm and heart failure.

How Is Asbestosis Diagnosed?

Diagnosing asbestosis can be quite challenging. The doctor must obtain a thorough medical history of the patient including history of asbestos exposure. It can also be detected through x-ray, lung function studies and clinical signs including respiratory crackling. Doctors today make use of high-resolution CT scans as it shows more detailed images of the lungs.

Mesothelioma

What is Mesothelioma?

Mesothelioma is a kind of lung cancer that is not caused by chronic cigarette smoking but rather is caused by the inhalation of asbestos. When asbestos fibres are inhaled, it can penetrate the lungs causing cancer in your pleura or it can penetrate your stomach or bowel causing cancer of the peritoneum. It is believed that cases of mesothelioma in Australia will reach its highest numbers between the year 2015 and 2020. In Australia, asbestos is the only chief cause of mesothelioma.

Mesothelioma is a malignancy that attacks the parietal lining of the pleura. It can also affect the peritoneal cavity. However, most if not all cases affect the pleura. Unfortunately, mesothelioma has no cure. During its advanced stages, the pleura or the peritoneum will thicken from the size of a standard cigarette paper until it forms into a hard tumor. As the tumor enlarges, it will take up space and compress the lungs or the GI tract.

Out of all asbestos diseases, mesothelioma is by far the most fatal and sadly it is the most widespread of all. A keyhole surgery or a needle biopsy is needed to diagnose mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is mainly caused by exposure to crocidolite, brown asbestos and blue asbestos. However, there are also cases of mesothelioma that have been linked to chrysotile and white asbestos.

Asbestos Safe Handling

What to do if I discover asbestos in my home?

If you are convinced that what you just discovered in your home is asbestos, do not go near it and do not touch it. You see, disturbing asbestos can potentially create dust and this is what we want to avoid, inhaling dust containing asbestos fibres. In most cases, discovering objects in your home that contains asbestos is not a cause for concern for as long as the object is not damaged. If wear and tear is not evident, you can just leave it alone. For example, if your ceilings or internal asbestos cement sheets are still in excellent condition and they are layered with coats of paint then they are not considered a health risk but under one condition, as long as they are not damaged.

The bottom line is, if you discover that some objects in your home has asbestos, it is best that you leave it alone as long as they are undisturbed and undamaged. It is important that you check materials in your home from time to time if they are damaged or deteriorating.

If, however, you plan to remove a material that has asbestos, here are the things you need to consider:

  • If it’s not damaged, can you just leave it be?
  • Do you know of any options to remove an object that contains asbestos?
  • Are you able to comply with the safety procedures and laws for handling asbestos?
  • Should you hire a professional asbestos removalist?

If you are going to be handling asbestos on your own, it is important to keep note of the following:

  • Never use compressed air
  • Never use sanding discs or abrasive cutting
  • Never use power tools
  • Never use high-pressure hoses
  • Never walk on corrugated roofs that contain asbestos
  • Never leave objects containing asbestos in your garden as these may be crushed or broken
  • When working with asbestos, make sure that it’s an area with excellent ventilation
  • Make sure that the object containing asbestos is completely wet when you are working on it to minimise the production of dust and the release of asbestos fibres

If you are going to be handling asbestos on your own, it is important to keep note of the following:

Is it possible to get objects tested for asbestos?

Yes, there are laboratories that analyse and check objects for asbestos. They also offer advice on how to properly take a sample and how to safely send it to the lab. Expect charges.

What if I unintentionally break asbestos?

What are you going to do if you unintentionally break an object that contains asbestos? Don’t panic. Find a damp cloth or get a wet paper towel and wipe all the dust particles you can find. Place the cloth or towel in two separate plastic bags and tie them securely. Throw them in a garbage bin.

Never use a vacuum cleaner to get rid of the dust since it can’t filter out the asbestos fibres anyway. Another reason why it is discouraged to use a vacuum cleaner when cleaning up dust is it will only release more toxic fibres in the air. How about if an object or material that contains asbestos cracks? Seal the crevice with paint or PVA glue. If the damage is worse than expected, you should replace the sheet entirely and follow the proper guidelines on how to dispose materials containing asbestos.

Can I remove asbestos by myself?

There are some types of asbestos you may be allowed to remove yourself (depending on council regulations), however, we do not recommend you do it because if you are not trained to properly and safely handle objects containing asbestos, you are putting your health at grave risk. If you really want to do it yourself, we highly encourage you to be very careful and learn about the safety practices before you carry out the removal. Keep in mind that asbestos fibres need to be handled carefully and cautiously. Remember that asbestos is not only dangerous to your health; it’s also toxic to those around you.

If the asbestos is loosely bound to the material, never attempt to do it yourself. Call a licensed removalist immediately. If the asbestos is firmly bound to the material, it is recommended that you wear disposable personal protective equipment. Wrap the material twice in a sturdy and thick plastic bag (at least 0.2 millimeters). Don’t forget to label it legibly with “Asbestos”. Dispose the plastic bag together with your protective clothing at a waste treatment centre.

How should you dispose asbestos?

Since asbestos is highly toxic, your local council has assigned specific areas where asbestos is to be disposed. Contact your local council and ask about their rules such as the location of the site, the maximum amount of asbestos waste at one time, the time of day it should be transported and the cost for disposal.

If you don’t have the luxury of time to handle or better yet dispose asbestos, you can always call a licensed asbestos removal company to gather and dispose asbestos waste from your home. These companies have the necessary safety containers and bins like skips and drums for proper asbestos storage.

When taking your asbestos waste to an accepted waste disposal site, make sure you place the asbestos waste in a double wrapped plastic bag and seal it completely. Place the plastic bags at the back of your truck and secure it so that it doesn’t bounce off and also to ensure that the plastic bag does not tear or that the asbestos doesn’t break. You will be given instructions on what to do as soon as you arrive at the disposal site.
What do I do if I have neighbors around?
Deciding to get rid of asbestos on your own is a big responsibility because you will be accountable for your health and the health of your family and neighbors. This is the reason why homeowners are discouraged to clean up an asbestos mess by themselves because they might accidentally break the material that contains asbestos resulting to asbestos fibres dispersing in the air and once inhaled can lead to serious health complications. If you think that a neighbor is removing asbestos without following safety precautions, get in touch with your local council right away and report the incident.

Why You Should Hire An Asbestos Removal Company

There are a number of reasons why homeowners would rather remove asbestos on their own. Firstly, they think it’s an easy task, one that they can handle without asking for help. Secondly, they aren’t aware of the potential hazards of asbestos. Thirdly, they consider hiring a professional asbestos removal company an added expense. Fourth, they have a lot of time in their hands. Fifth, they don’t know a reliable asbestos removal company in the area.

While these reasons may convince you to dismiss contacting an asbestos removal company, doing so can do more damage not just to your health but to your finances as well. You see, there are things that you can do on your own but there are also those that you SHOULD NOT carry out because of its risks and removing asbestos is one of those. So if you are contemplating about removing asbestos by yourself, think again.

Here are reasons that will convince you to hire an asbestos removal company for your own good.

  • Licensed Professionals Can Do It For You

Why burden yourself with the stress of dealing with toxic asbestos when there are people who are skilled, trained and knowledgeable to carry out these tasks efficiently and effectively? Hiring a professional asbestos removal company is one of the best decisions you could make for yourself and for your family. They will first do a home inspection and take samples from your home to test and check the condition and the type of asbestos you have. You are also confident that they are abreast of Brisbane’s laws on the proper handling and disposal of asbestos. This alone is enough to convince you to hand this job over to professionals.

  • It’s A Very Dangerous Job

If you are considering removing asbestos by yourself then it’s safe to assume that you don’t really know what you are getting yourself into. Asbestos is extremely toxic and it can cause serious health complications. Therefore, if you are not trained to properly handle and dispose asbestos, then you are putting yourself and those around you at risk of developing asbestos-related diseases. In certain areas, the law requires that you hire a professional to get rid and dispose of asbestos. So as not to get into trouble, your best option is to call your local government and ask about the laws and regulations they have about asbestos handling nad removal.

  • Asbestos Removal Requires Training and Licenses

Unless you have a license to remove asbestos or if you were trained to qualify to remove asbestos then there is no reason for you to hire an asbestos removal company but if you aren’t trained and if you aren’t licensed then you have all the reasons in the world to hire a professional to do the job. Remember that asbestos is dangerous and you need someone who is professionally trained and licensed to ensure that it is handled correctly. Professional asbestos removal experts are required to undergo training and to obtain licenses to safely and effectively remove asbestos.

  • Experience and Skills

Removing asbestos requires skills and these skills are honed through experience. Even though they are taught to handle asbestos, their collection of experiences on handling asbestos cases is what makes them worthy to handle the asbestos in your home. Remember that you are not only doing this for yourself, you are doing this for your family’s health and safety. It is important that you look for a company that has had a vast experience in removing asbestos.

  • They Can Safely Execute Asbestos Removal

A lot of people think that removing asbestos is simple and easy, little do they know, professionals calculate their every move to ensure that they follow all the safety precautions for asbestos handling. One careless mistake can lead to the dispersion of asbestos fibres that are capable of endangering your health. There is absolutely no room for errors when you are handling asbestos. Homeowners should not risk this but instead should rely on professionals to safely handle asbestos.

  • It Is Worth The Cost

If you are having second thoughts about hiring professionals because you think of it as an added expense, then it means you don’t value your health and safety. The truth is, if you don’t hire a professional to remove and dispose asbestos, you are actually going to pay more when you get sick. The peace of mind you get by knowing that your family is safe is invaluable. Furthermore, knowing that asbestos will be completely and safely removed from your home is worth every penny.

  • Peace of Mind

Knowing that you have asbestos in your home is enough to cause you to worry and panic. Deciding to handle asbestos on your own is a big risk but some people do it anyway for their own reasons. If, however, the task didn’t go according to plan, would you still be able to sleep well at night knowing that you just inhaled asbestos fibres? And what’s worse is that your family was able to inhale it as well because you made a mistake? Could you live with the guilt? Could you still have peace of mind knowing that you are accountable for what happened? If peace of mind is something that you value, then you need to invest in a professional asbestos removal company. No risks, no dangers because they are doing their job according to the standards regulated and accepted by the law.

How To Find The Best Asbestos Removal Company

One of the hardest things to do is to find a reliable and trustworthy asbestos removal company. Not to worry because we’ve compiled several tips so you can end up with the best asbestos removal company in Brisbane.

  • Look for a company that only hires trained and skilled workers

One important thing you need to ensure is that the company hires trained and skilled workers. Their workers should have undergone extensive trainings and participated in a series of seminars before they area allowed to remove and handle asbestos. After they have obtained their license, they can then apply as professional asbestos removalists. Hiring trained and licensed removalists means they are geared with the knowledge, the experience and the skills to safely remove and dispose asbestos.

  • Look for a company that uses the right methods and equipment

The challenging part about asbestos removal is that there should be no room for mistakes. An accidental breakage or spillage during the removal, transport and disposal can expose you to harmful effects of asbestos fibres. Look for a company that practices appropriate safety methods and a company that insists on using the proper equipment to ensure that there are no leaks and no spills during asbestos handling.

  • Do not hire an asbestos removal company that does not offer insurance coverage.

Qualified asbestos removalists should be able to offer proof to their clients in the form of public liability insurance since you will be paying them for their expertise. This insurance is a form of guarantee that the homeowner will receive financial compensation in the event that something goes wrong during the handling, transport and removal of asbestos.

  • Ask if they will be able to dispose of the asbestos following local laws and regulations

It’s not enough to safely remove asbestos from your home. The entire process should be completed in accordance to local laws and regulations. Just because you hired a company does not mean you can already assume that they are going to dispose asbestos properly. You have to ask questions and you have to do your own research. It is their job to take care of everything from start to finish.

  • Do your own research

One of the ways to know whether or not what they are doing is right and complies with local laws and regulations is to do your own research. By doing your own research, you will be aware of what’s right and what’s wrong and this is very crucial when it comes to asbestos handling. You will be able to determine if an asbestos removal company is the best company for you if they are able to use and execute the right methods for handling asbestos.

  • Look out for recommendations and suggestions

Although it helps to visit their official website and read about their services and what they are able to do, one of the best ways to know if what they are saying are true is to look out for recommendation and suggestions. You can start by visiting forums and asking about their experiences with a particular company. Keep in mind that all of these companies are marketing themselves to you so you will never read about a negative feedback if you visit their website. However, asking from previous clients or from family and friends who have tried their services will give you honest and unbiased answers about that particular company. You can also visit their social media pages to know what they have been up to, the certifications and trainings their staff have attended and the licenses that prove they are qualified and fit to do the job. They usually advertise these on their social media pages. So if you want to know what they are capable of, try to ask for suggestions. Of course, we recommend you contact the team here at Total Asbestos Removal Brisbane if you need help with Asbestos Removal.