Asbestos is a proven human carcinogen, and all forms of asbestos can cause cancer
Asbestos causes cancer in a dose-dependent manner. The greater the exposure, and the longer the time of exposure, the greater the risk of developing an asbestos-related disease.
No ‘safe’ lower limit of exposure has been identified with certainty – all exposure is thought to add to the overall risk of disease development – but the risk from a single, low-level exposure is considered to be extremely low.
What’s the deal with Asbestos and my property?
Under the Health & Safety at Work Act 2015 (HSWA) homeowners, landlords (and Property Managers) must ensure that, when work is carried out at their property, it is done safely and without endangering workers or others, including tenants. Landlords (and PM’s) must identify asbestos in the workplace and document plans for managing its risks in an asbestos management plan, if there is risk of exposure to respirable asbestos fibres.
What are the risks involved with non-compliance?
There are significant fines in place where a Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking (PCBU) is prosecuted for failing to honour their obligations and these can be placed on both an individual and business.
- Penalties range from $50K-$3M in Fines, with up to 5yrs Prison (Sections 47,48 & 49)
The Proactive vs Reactive Approach
- Proactively have properties surveyed, and if needed have asbestos managed or removed.
- Wait until refurbishment/building work is needed and the have the property surveyed at that point (any work involving a risk of exposure to respirable asbestos fibres).
Not all Surveys & Consultants are created equal
- Don’t work with providers who cant demonstrate BOHS IP402 or IP404 qualifications, with appropriate experience and supervision.
- Have no-conflict of interest (don’t provide consulting & removal services)
- Providers should have comprehensive Asbestos Specific Insurances
- Consultants (and PCBU’s) must have samples analysed by an Accredited Laboratory (IANZ or WorkSafe Approved equivalent)
Where might you find Asbestos?
Asbestos-containing products (ACM) can be found in lots of places, as the picture below shows. You might find it in vinyl flooring, interior and exterior wall cladding and soffits, fences, texture coatings, fireplaces, stoves, hot water cupboards, electrical switchboards, roofs, guttering and downpipes. The list goes on!
Asbestos is a group of naturally occurring mineral fibres which were extensively mined from 1870 onwards. It was used in a range of building materials until around 1980 when adverse health affects to asbestos became known.
Asbestos has many distinctive characteristics such as fire resistance, tensile strength, and it is cheap to mine – making it a popular choice for building materials. Asbestos was widely used in over 3000 known products around the globe and is still used in some countries today.
Houses built before 1 July 2000 have a high chance of having asbestos containing materials (ACM’s). In New Zealand asbestos products where phased out with a complete ban on importing in 2016.
There are various types of asbestos fibres, with different shapes, colours, and lengths. The most common fibre type is Chrysotile which is a white highly flexible fibre. Unfortunately, these can rarely be seen by the naked eye. These fibres were usually mixed with other materials such as cement or plaster which may disguise the fibrous characteristic. Therefore, if you suspect a material may contain asbestos it is best to have this sampled and analysed by a professional laboratory.
Common products that may contain asbestos include vinyl flooring, cement sheets. Sprayed fire protection, insulation, textured coatings (e.g. popcorn ceilings), roof tiles, adhesives and much more.
Breathing in asbestos fibres is a serious health risk. Once fibres become lodged in the lungs the human body is unable to degrade them which leads to serious diseases as listed below. There is usually a long latency period of about 20 years before symptoms will start to show.
Inhaling significant quantities of airborne asbestos can cause:
- asbestosis (scarring of lung tissue)
- mesothelioma (malignant tumours, cancers that develop around the lungs or intestine)
- pleural plaques (thickening of membranes around the lungs)
- cancer of the lung, larynx and ovary.
Asbestos materials which are in a good condition pose minimal health risks and do not need to immediately be removed. Many techniques such as sealing and encapsulating can be implemented to extend the life of these products (these will however need to be managed on an ongoing basis, including condition checks). However, these are all deferral methods and at some point, the asbestos material will need to be removed.
In New Zealand there are two classes of licensed asbestos removalist; Class A & Class B. Class B licensed removalist can remove all non-friable asbestos materials whilst Class A licensed removalist can remove all non-friable or friable asbestos materials.
If you consider yourself to be competent you can remove up to 10sqm of non-friable material yourself per project. This must still be disposed of correctly as hazardous waste.
Under the Health and safety at work (asbestos) Regulations 2016 a refurbishment or demolition survey is required prior to any works which may disturb asbestos. Before work can begin you must identify and remove (so far as reasonably practicable) any asbestos that will be affected prior to commencing works.
All workers must then ask for and read the asbestos management plan for the workplace. This will provide them with crucial details on the location, amount, and risk level of all asbestos materials identified.
- One of our experienced consultants will contact you to arrange a convenient time and gather some background information for the site.
- The surveyor will introduce themselves and explain the process to yourself or your tenants.
- A walk through of the site will be conducted to identify any suspect or high-risk materials.
- Site details, such as photographs and floor plans will be recorded.
- If any samples are required these will be discussed with you first and then undertaken according to Work Safe Guidelines.
- Once the survey has been completed a full asbestos report and asbestos management plan (if required) will be issued.
- Asbestos is used very often for its structural integrity and fire resistance properties.
- This means it can often be found in wall panelling (internal and external), cladding of buildings, under carpets and tiles as heat and moisture insulation, in fire blankets and doors, heat insulation for boilers and steel framing of buildings.
- Insulation of pipes, connections between pipes, fuse boxes as electrical insulators, floor tiles, sprayed coatings on ceilings and walls, textured coatings on ceilings and walls, loose asbestos used as heat and sound protection in cavities, asbestos panels used as sound insulation.
- Various other small panels of asbestos containing materials (ACM’s) are found throughout the house in locations where at the time, the properties of the ACM made it the best possible option for the job.