In the ACT, if your house was built before 1985, there's a good chance that it contains asbestos (though this date may vary slightly in some cases).
There are two forms of asbestos – both of which may be in houses in the ACT.
The first is referred to as friable asbestos. Although this form of asbestos was not commonly used in Canberra homes, loose-fill asbestos insulation is an example of friable asbestos and this is known to have been used in a number of Canberra homes.
In recognition of the public health risks associated with loose-fill asbestos insulation, there was a Loose Asbestos Insulation Removal Program in the ACT in the late 1980’s. It is unlikely however that the Program removed all the loose-fill asbestos insulation in all ACT homes.
The second form of asbestos – “bonded” asbestos – is in a large number of Canberra homes. As was common across Australia, many homes built before 1985 will have building materials containing bonded asbestos and these are most commonly in the bathroom, laundry, kitchen, eaves and garage/shed of a house. Generally, if this form of asbestos is in a good condition and left undisturbed, it does not pose a health risk.
The information below primarily relates to “bonded” asbestos. A number of homes in the ACT may also contain friable asbestos such as in the form of loose-fill asbestos insulation. These homes would all have been built before 1985.
The Government has developed generic advice (Asbestos Advice) about the likely location of asbestos in residential premises built before 1985. This Asbestos Advice is based on the findings of an asbestos survey of over 600 homes undertaken by the ACT Asbestos Task Force in 2005. ACT laws require sellers and lessors of residential premises to provide the Asbestos Advice with a contract for sale and with a residential tenancy agreement. The law also requires building certifiers to provide the Asbestos Advice when issuing a building approval.
While, for residential housing, the majority of building products containing asbestos were phased out in the 1980s, other materials containing asbestos continued to be used in plant rooms and other equipment until more recently. These materials can be found internally and externally, and in wet and dry areas. However, the age of a product or material does not always indicate whether it may contain asbestos. Also, given the range of generic products that were once manufactured using asbestos fibres, it can be difficult to tell whether a product or material contains asbestos just by looking at it.
There are some areas of a building where materials containing asbestos were more commonly used. For example, asbestos is commonly found under eaves and in wet areas. However, the most accurate way to detect whether or not asbestos is present is to have a licensed asbestos assessor inspect and test the product or material. Attempting to sample the material or product yourself, can be more hazardous than leaving it alone. If you're not sure whether a product or material contains asbestos, it's safest to treat it as though it does and take the necessary precautions.
CLICK ON A PICTURE TO ENLARGE IT.
Please note: this is not an exhaustive list of all the places you may find asbestos in residential buildings, but rather it highlights 'hotspots' where asbestos is likely to be located in homes built before 1985.
Click here for information on how to safely work with asbestos.
Click here for information on how to safely remove asbestos.
Click here for information on how to safely dispose of asbestos.