Asbestos exposure is a risk on most Australian farms and properties. It only takes a small exposure to potentially contract deadly asbestos disease.
Be aware of where on your property asbestos is (or could be) and take steps to protect yourself and your family.
Any structure built prior to 1990 - or using materials purchased prior to 1990 - potentially contains asbestos. Fibro and corrugated sheeting are particular culprits and need to be monitored carefully.
If sealed, left undisturbed and in good condition, asbestos products don’t usually pose a health risk. However if disturbed, asbestos fibres are released which can be inhaled and cause asbestos-related diseases.
It doesn't take much to disturb fibres - drilling into an asbestos-containing wall to hang a picture, for example.
It's also important to consider if your property is a high risk of flooding or fire - two natural events that can cause asbestos to become exposed and disturbed.
Where might asbestos be?
It could be anywhere! Asbestos was a very prevalent building and construction material right up until the end of the 1980s. Fibro and corrugated sheets (often found in barns and outdoor buildings) are especially prevalent on Australian farms. Outdoor toilets, backyard and farm structures, chook sheds and even dog kennels often contain asbestos materials. There have also been cases of exposure from cement pipes (including irrigation pipes).
Within the home itself, under floor coverings including carpets, linoleum and vinyl tiles, behind wall and floor tiles, in cement floors, internal and external walls, ceilings and ceiling space (insulation), eaves, garages, roofs, around hot water pipes, fences, extensions to homes, garages,
Farming families are also asked to consider old, or abandoned, farm structures on their property as these are often high asbestos risks.
There is asbestos on our farm - what should we do?
It can be more difficult for remote properties to organise professional assistance in identifying and/or removing asbestos due to distance. However if it is at all possible we recommend professional assistance as any amount of exposure could prove deadly for you or your family.
We do have some information about how to be as safe as possible when working around asbestos if you have no other option. You can access that information here.
Some basic safety rules for working around asbestos materials:
NEVER create dust.
NEVER BREAK asbestos or fibro sheeting.
NEVER work in windy conditions.
NEVER USE POWER TOOLS OR EQUIPMENT that can produce dust.
NEVER USE BROOMS OR BRUSHES except for sealing if using paint or a PVA glue solution.
NEVER USE HIGH PRESSURE water spray on ANY asbestos product including walls, fences and roofing.
NEVER USE HOUSEHOLD VACUUM CLEANERS. Only special H Class Asbestos vacuum cleaners are used by licenced removalist