Asbestos is a highly-fibrous, naturally-occurring mineral. It is notable for its fire and heat-resistant properties, which is why it was used widely as a building material. Combined with other materials, asbestos was used for decades in the manufacture of insulation and many other products that required a high heat resistance. Asbestos-based products were used widely in both residential and commercial construction in New Zealand from the 1920s to the 1980s. Asbestos was used up until 2000 in some other products as well, so any building constructed before that year could have asbestos containing products.
There are a number of different types of asbestos with different looks, varying in colour and fibre-shape, but any asbestos that you are likely to come into contact with is also normally combined with other materials (such as cement), which can make it difficult to identify by sight. If you suspect that there may be material in your home that contains asbestos, it’s a good idea to have it assessed by a professional laboratory.
Yes - especially if damaged. Damaged, old, or degraded asbestos products crumble easily, and the needle-like asbestos fibres can then become airborne. The individual fibres are far to small to see with the naked eye. If people are in the same area, it's easy for them to inhale the asbestos fibres, which can stay airborne for hours or days. When inhaled, asbestos fibres will lodge in the lining of the lungs (or other parts of your body) and can cause lung-scarring and other health problems, including incurable lung cancer. Symptoms of the health problems caused by asbestos inhalation often do not appear until 15–20 (or even more) years after exposure, making it easy to underestimate the danger.
Asbestos can be present in many construction materials used before the dangers of asbestos were realised and regulations put in place to stop the import of asbestos containing products. These products can include vinyl floor coverings, sprayed fire protection, insulation, wall claddings, textured coating (stipple or whisper), bitumen roofing membranes, roof tiles, paints, adhesives, and more. Depending on the age and construction of your home or workplace, one or more of these products could be present in your building. Read More
WorkSafe NZ recommends that any building built before 2000 is checked for the presence of asbestos - asbestos was still in use up until this point in New Zealand.
If you suspect your home or commercial building may contain asbestos materials, it’s best to have it assessed by professionals to see if it may pose a health risk, which is where ARL Solutions can help.
Lab testing may be needed to confirm the presence of asbestos. If the asbestos is undamaged and is left alone, it will not pose a major health hazard. The risk occurs when asbestos materials are damaged in some way, which releases asbestos fibres into the air. The asbestos fibres are then in a dangerous state as they can be inhaled by unprotected persons. Professional assessment of an environment that contains asbestos may reveal problems with the air quality, in which case the asbestos in your building will definitely need to be removed.
CERA (Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority) has identified many of the Christchurch and Canterbury buildings that may contain asbestos, and asbestos information has been provided to the property owners.
Where is it safe to do so, all asbestos needs to be removed from any building before or as part of the refurbishment or demolition process. This removal needs to be performed by a licensed asbestos removal company like ARL Solutions, who can take proper measures to minimise dust generation from the asbestos removal process.
For more information on asbestos, see the official guides produced by the Ministry of Health.
Where is it safe to do so, all asbestos needs to be removed from any building before or as part of the demolition process. This removal needs to be performed by a licensed asbestos removal company, such as ARL Solutions.
If you are planning on carrying out refurbishment or demolition of your building, the chances are that you need to have an asbestos refurbishment and demolition survey carried out before you start this process! For details and advice regarding these surveys, contact ARL Solutions today.
For more information on asbestos and how it should be removed, refer to ACOP: Management and Removal of Asbestos