It’s November and it’s National Asbestos Awareness Month. With one of the highest rates of asbestos-related diseases in the world, the Asbestos Awareness Month aims to educate Australian homeowners and tradespeople the dangers of asbestos in and around the home, especially when undertaking renovation or maintenance jobs and how to best manage it.
Asbestos was an extremely common material used in buildings before the mid-1980. At least a third of brick, weatherboard, fibro and clad homes and apartments will have asbestos present. Asbestos can be found all around the home including under floor covering such as carpet, in walls, ceiling, eaves, garages, fences, outdoor toilets, ventilators and more. That being said, asbestos only becomes a health risk when asbestos fibres are disturbed usually during renovations, released into the air and breathed in.
There is no safe level of exposure and breathing in dust containing asbestos fibres can cause asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is a cancer which most often occurs in the lining of the lung and there is no cure. You may not know that you have asbestos-related disease as symptoms don’t usually appear until about 20-30 years after the first exposure and the risk of contracting asbestos-related diseases increases with the amount inhaled, and the period of exposure.
When undertaking any renovations, domestic or commercial, people are urged to assume asbestos materials are present and to take every precaution to protect yourself and others who may be subjected to asbestos exposure. In fact, most people can’t tell whether building materials contain asbestos just by looking at them. If in doubt, have the material removed safely by a licenced asbestos removal contractor and tested by a NATA accredited testing laboratory.
In general, the sample will be collected by the licenced asbestos removal contractor using an air sampling pump like the SKC AirChek TOUCH which will draw a measured quantity of air through a gridded membrane filter. The filter is then sent to a NATA accredited testing laboratory to be sized and counted with the results reported as fibres/ml.
For those involved in asbestos monitoring, it’s important to ensure that you select a pump that demonstrates no problems in meeting the NATA back pressure requirements at 4L/Min (8KPa backpressure) such as the SKC AirChek TOUCH. The AirChek TOUCH falls under the classification of what’s known as a direct automatic flow control pump, thus reducing the frequency requirements for NATA calibration.