Once upon a time, asbestos was one of the most widely used materials in the world and could be found everywhere from roofing and gutters to insulation to carpets. Before the 90s almost all homes were built using asbestos and it was beloved by builders and homeowners alike for its versatility and affordability. However, as scientists and doctors did more and more research into asbestos’ effects on the human body, its popularity started to decline. Now the toxic material is banned in many countries, including New Zealand. Despite this, it’s still the largest contributor to workplace deaths in the country and currently, New Zealand ranks right behind Australia in terms of the number of deaths attributed to cancer caused by inhalation. It’s evident that asbestos still poses a risk to Kiwis and that it's still present in many buildings in the country. Experts estimate that there are over 40 000 contaminated buildings in Christchurch alone, which means that there are possibly hundreds of thousands in the entire country.
Typically, the people most likely to encounter asbestos will be licensed removalists who undergo significant amounts of training to learn how to identify and remove it. The government requires commercial building owners and landlords to have a plan in place to manage any asbestos found on their property. Additionally, government agencies are taking measures to make public buildings such as schools and community centres safe by actively managing any asbestos present. However, there is currently no such law governing or protecting homeowners, making proactive asbestos removal critical for New Zealand homeowners. Here’s why homeowners are especially at risk and how you can gauge what level of risk you could be facing.
Why Homeowners Are At Risk
One in three homes in New Zealand may contain asbestos, and it can be found both inside and outside the home. Currently, sellers have no obligation to disclose to a potential buyer that a house has asbestos present and there is no national register to see if your home is at risk. It puts homeowners at significant risk as many could be living in households with asbestos without knowing it. The biggest threat occurs during DIY work. The majority of homeowners will dabble in DIY work, and it could potentially expose them to this deadly material.
The law requires you to contact a licensed removalist should you find asbestos in your home. The problem is that most people don’t know what it could look like and wouldn’t know whether or not they’re messing with a contaminated element. The majority of asbestos doesn’t pose a threat unless it’s disturbed.
A homeowner could innocently attempt minor repairs on their property without knowing that they’re releasing fibres of it into the air. It’s worth remembering that asbestos fibres are invisible to the naked eye, they don’t have a smell and you may not know you’ve inhaled it until several decades have passed and you’ve developed breathing problems. Some experts estimate that it could be present in over 3800 individual products used in the construction of your home.
It means that as a homeowner, you need to proactively take steps to safely assess the likelihood that asbestos is present in your home so that you can get it removed by a licensed specialist.
How To Determine Your Property’s Asbestos Risk
If you’re concerned that there might be asbestos in your home at this very minute, remember that it only poses an actual threat if it’s disturbed. As long as you don’t tamper with it, a professional can remove it with little risk to you, your loved ones or your property.
There are certain things to look out for which indicate there’s a high likelihood your home has asbestos. If you built it after 1990, there’s a good chance you’re in the clear. Otherwise, here’s what to look out for when conducting a visual examination. It’s by no means a comprehensive checklist, but it’s a good indicator of whether or not asbestos is present, as well as where it could be present.
- Your Home’s Exterior
Look for cement roofing that is corrugated or has Fibrolite or Hardiplank shingles, eaves and cladding, which usually has an imitation brick or stone appearance. Pay attention to your downpipes, spouting and your gutters. It could also be present in sewer pipes or storm drains on your property. Don’t forget to look out for window flashing and finally, pay attention to any garage or any sheds or outbuildings on your property which have the above present. Your physical home isn’t the only place the asbestos could be.
- Your Home’s Interior
Look at your walls and your ceilings. Asbestos is often present where there’s textured paint or patching visible or where there’s a decorative or corrugated effect. If your home has vinyl floors or asphalt tiling, it could be underneath it as an adhesive or backing. If you have a wood burning stove or furnace in your home, there’s also a good chance the original builders reinforced the walls and floors around any it. These areas were often reinforced with asbestos because it had heat resistant and insulative properties.
Call A Professional For Expert Asbestos Removal
The only way you can be 100% sure you have asbestos in your home is to sample the material and send it for testing at an accredited laboratory. Again, the only team that can assist in this is the one trained and equipped to handle asbestos in the first place. If you suspect there might be asbestos in your home, don’t hesitate to contact JP Franklin Asbestos Services. Our team of experts have the industry-grade respiratory and safety equipment necessary to remove this dangerous material. They will quickly and efficiently assess your property. They will also eliminate any threats present without causing further damage. Once we’ve removed the asbestos, we’ll dispose of it legally and ethically. At JP Franklin Asbestos we do it all, so you don’t need to worry one moment longer if you suspect that your home is unsafe. Just call us today.