Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral made up of tiny, microscopic fibres. When asbestos is disturbed in its natural form or in an asbestos-containing product, these fibres can become airborne and easily inhaled. These asbestos fibres may become trapped in the lungs, potentially causing a number of life-threatening diseases, such as cancer.
Inhalation is the main way that asbestos enters the body. Exposure to asbestos fibres increases the risk of developing cancers of the lung, ovary and larynx, as well as mesothelioma (cancer of the lining of the lung). These cancers often develop decades after asbestos exposure.
Mesothelioma is a rare, fast-growing cancer almost always caused by exposure to asbestos. There’s currently no cure for this disease. Between 700 and 800 people are diagnosed with mesothelioma in Australia each year, with the average time between diagnosis and death being only 11 months (AIHW, 2019).
As well as cancer, some other asbestos-related diseases include:
• Asbestosis – Scar tissue forms inside the lungs and makes breathing difficult
• Pleural plaques – Asbestos fibres cause thickened patches of scar tissue on the pleura or lung lining.
All these asbestos-related diseases contribute to approximately 4000 deaths in Australia each year (Global Burden of Disease Collaborative Network, 2016).
Due to these health risks, Australia imposed a total ban on the mining, manufacture and use of asbestos on 31 December 2003. However, our past use of asbestos means that asbestos-containing materials still exist in our built environment.
There’s no safe level of exposure that can protect you from developing an asbestos-related disease (World Health Organisation).
This is because asbestos is a genotoxic carcinogen, and owing to its DNA interaction properties, there is thought to be no safe exposure threshold or dose. Genotoxic carcinogens are regulated under the assumption that they pose a cancer risk for humans, even at very low doses.
Anyone can be at risk of exposure to asbestos fibres, either through contact with naturally occurring asbestos found in some rocks, sediments and soils or through contact with asbestos-containing materials in our built environment.
The people at greatest risk of exposure are those that undertake repairs, maintenance, renovations and other work on older buildings and infrastructure which contain asbestos materials.
Research has shown that smoking significantly increases the risk of lung cancer in people who have been exposed to asbestos.
Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency (ASEA) 2020. Asbestos Health Risks. Accessed June 2022.
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) 2019. Mesothelioma in Australia. Cat. no. CAN 130. Canberra: AIHW. Accessed June 2022.
World Health Organization (WHO) 2018. Asbestos: elimination of asbestos-related diseases. Accessed June 2022.
Our team takes the highest possible safety precautions to ensure the worksite’s safety. Every project is different and requires detailed pre-planning.
Below is a broad overview of the processes involved in a typical removal project:
• Define scope
• Inform certain persons of the work
• Engaging licensed asbestos assessors
• Air monitoring
• Service isolations
• Limiting access, displaying signs and installing barricades
• Trained removal workers
• Respiratory protective equipment (RPE)
• Personal protective equipment (PPE)
• Decontamination procedures
• Clearance inspections and certificates
• Disposing of asbestos waste
Many factors affect the cost of asbestos removal, including ease of access, the condition of the asbestos, and the general size and scope of the project.
Our residential cost calculators are a handy way to get a ballpark figure; however, an on-site inspection is the best way to get an exact price.
To arrange an on-site inspection, contact our team on 1300 722 511.
Some of the most important asbestos removal equipment are the H-type HEPA-rated asbestos vacuum cleaner and Negative Pressure Units (NPUs). These vacuums decontaminate the work area of all visible and invisible asbestos debris. NPUs are installed on encapsulations to ensure a negative pressure environment is created to prevent the release of asbestos fibres.
If incorrectly maintained or mistreated during transport/use, the filters on vacuums and NPUs can become damaged and lose efficiency. If this happens, the equipment may release dangerous asbestos fibres.
The only way to ensure this doesn’t happen is to care for the equipment, have a maintenance program in place, and ensure all H-type equipment has a current DOP (Dispersed Oil Particulate) testing certification.
DOP testing is a scientific test that asbestos removal equipment must be subjected to every 6 to 12 months, depending on the type of equipment. This is a requirement under the Code of Practice, so if your contractor can’t provide this documentation, don’t trust them with your project.
While this won’t affect you directly or play a part in your removal project, it’s an indicator of the contractor’s commitment to safety.
It’s a legislative requirement to provide yearly fit testing and an ongoing health surveillance program for employees. But, incredibly, many contractors don’t.
If your contractor can’t provide these documents, it’s worth considering that they might also be cutting other corners.
Both air monitoring and clearance inspections are services that an independent Licensed Asbestos Assessor must conduct. Air monitoring measures airborne/respirable fibres released during asbestos removal works.
It isn’t legally required on every non-friable job (except for South Australia) but is recommended and should be strongly considered. Talk to your removal contractor. They’ll help you determine if it should be undertaken on your project.
A clearance inspection is the inspection of a worksite by an independent Licensed Asbestos Assessor following the asbestos removal works. It ensures all asbestos, residue, and dust have been correctly removed and that the work area has been adequately decontaminated.
Not only is it required to ensure the safety of the environment before its reoccupied, but it’s also a legislative requirement.
This is the final step of the asbestos removal process that enables reoccupation. Any dangers must be picked up now before any inadvertent exposure.