Understanding Asbestos: What You Need to Know

A close up of asbestos fibres

Asbestos, once hailed as a miracle material, turned into a health nightmare. Its microscopic fibre, when inhaled, can lead to deadly diseases.

Widely used in construction until the 1980s, the dangers of asbestos became evident when ill health was directly linked with asbestos exposure. This triggered many countries to ban or heavily restrict its use.

However, many people are still unaware of asbestos risks. As asbestos is built into the structure of a building, we don’t always know it’s there. This ‘out of sight, out of mind’ mentality means the hidden threat can linger in buildings for decades.

Efforts to educate about asbestos are ongoing, but we’re here to fill some gaps and clear up any confusion about the harmful material.

What is Asbestos?

Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral fibre that was once widely used in various industries for its desirable properties, such as strength, durability, and resistance to heat and fire. There are several types of asbestos minerals, including chrysotile, amosite, and crocidolite.

In the past, asbestos was commonly used in building materials, insulation, brake linings, and other products.

Historical Uses of Asbestos

Back in the day, asbestos was the construction superhero. Its fire-resistant, durable nature made it a go-to material. From roofs to car brakes, asbestos was everywhere. It was cheap, malleable and played a starring role in insulation and flooring.

So, when was asbestos first discovered? Let’s go back thousands of years to ancient Greek and Roman times to find out. The word “asbestos” is derived from the Greek word “asbeston,” meaning “unquenchable” or “inextinguishable,” reflecting its resistance to fire. The ancient Greeks and Romans observed its fire-resistant properties and used asbestos in various applications, such as clothing and lamp wicks.

However, widespread use didn’t start until after the industrial revolution in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Its popularity quickly soared, and asbestos became everyone’s favourite construction material.

Until its dark side emerged, and we realised inhaling those tiny fibres led to serious health issues.

Asbestos went from being the hero to the villain of the construction story.

Today, asbestos is synonymous with danger. However, we’re still many years away from eradicating asbestos-containing materials from the vast number of structures housing it.

The Dangers of Improper Asbestos Removal

Improper asbestos removal may contaminate the air and surfaces with toxic fibres. Inadequate precautions can expose homeowners, neighbours, and workers to long-term health hazards.

We can’t stress enough the importance of professional asbestos abatement. At AR Plus, we understand what this involves and ensure proper containment, equipment, and disposal methods are used on all projects.

Cutting corners on removal invites a silent threat, endangering lives with unseen consequences that can emerge years later. We prioritise your safety, leaving no trace of asbestos anywhere in your building.

Identifying Asbestos in Your Building

As professional asbestos removalists, we go through a strategic process to detect asbestos.

First, we visually identify potential asbestos-containing materials in your property. We then carefully collect samples without disturbing the fibres and send these samples off to be tested in a laboratory environment.

In the lab, various techniques are used to identify the presence and type of asbestos.

This thorough process ensures accurate detection and emphasises the importance of leaving this task to certified professionals.

Woman with gloved hands holding a block of asbestos.

FAQs

Q. Where is asbestos found?

A. We commonly find asbestos in roofing, insulation and flooring. However, asbestos can be present in decorative ceiling tiles, textured paints, pipe insulation, car parts and appliances.

Q. Are there different types of asbestos?

A. Yes, asbestos comes in two main types: Chrysotile and Amphibole. Chrysotile, or white asbestos, is widely used in construction. Amphibole asbestos includes Amosite (brown) and Crocidolite (blue) used in insulation and the less common Tremolite and Anthophyllite. All types pose health risks when airborne.

Q. Is it illegal to use asbestos in NZ?

A. The importation and use of raw asbestos are banned in New Zealand. However, there are some exceptions for specific products containing a low percentage of asbestos.

Q. How does asbestos exposure occur?

A. Asbestos exposure occurs when fibres are disturbed and become airborne. As asbestos deteriorates, microscopic fibres can break away and release into the air.

Q. Is there a safe level of asbestos exposure?

A. No level of asbestos exposure is considered safe.

Q. What should I do if I suspect asbestos in my building?

A. Call our team as soon as you suspect asbestos or if you simply want to rule it out. We can assess your site and remove any asbestos in a timely manner to minimise downtime and eliminate potential health risks.

We’re still a long way from being an asbestos-free country. Is your property among the many buildings still housing asbestos? Find out today with the help of AR Plus.

Simply send us a message using the form on this page and we’ll get right back to you.


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