Many homes and commercial establishments in Australia built before 1980 were built using cement mixed with asbestos externally, either on the roofs, gutters and wall claddings or internally in bathroom fittings as a component of wallpaper or bonding material on floor and wall tiles. Though mostly friable (tightly bound) asbestos was used, with time, extreme weather conditions like heavy rains or strong winds and activities like demolition and renovation may loosen the material on the roofs or gutters, blowing asbestos fibers into the air. When inhaled or swallowed, these particles cause deadly diseases like asbestosis and mesothelioma, a cancer that destroys the membranes of the lungs and abdomen.
The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare gave the number of those having died from mesothelioma as 551 in 2007, up from 416 in 1997. The Australian Bureau of Statistics Cause of Death data shows that 642 people succumbed to mesothelioma in 2010. The statistics are worrying and this should prompt anyone living under an asbestos roof to have it removed.
Removing asbestos or Asbestos Containing Material (ACM) is a delicate andsensitive process, given that it is toxic. The Code of Practice for the Safe Removal of Asbestos [NOHSC: 2002 (2005)], drawn up by the National Health and Occupational Safety Commission (NHOSC) sets out the framework for the process of removing asbestos or ACM on a small or large scale.
The removal takes place in the stages explained below :
This is done by the removalist to prepare the best and safest methods of work. Each site has a different plan and that is why this stage is crucial. Also, the client is involved in the planning process so they know what exactly is to be done. The nature of the tasks to be done could be laid down clearly in the plan, something done at the discretion of the removalist.
The type and quantity of asbestos, whether friable or non-friable and ACM is specified, and where they are located. The time plan and work scheduling is detailed, including what equipment is needed and how electric installations are to be handled. This report is necessary to act as a guide, to be kept for the removalist’s records or reference for later stages after the work is complete or near completion.
2. Removal (Removal Methods)
I. Wet method
Here the site to be worked on is saturated in water and the sheets of asbestos removed using a method that least agitates them. It is only used in areas where electric connections do not pose a safety hazard. The water stops the asbestos fibers from floating into the air.
II. Dry Method
It is generally avoided, except where electronic/electric components cannot be managed properly, or where water can damage them. In some Australian states, the approval of the Occupational Health and Safety (OHS)Authority must be sought first.
I. Workers must wear protective clothing, either brand new or previously laundered at launderers approved and authorized to clean clothing contaminated with asbestos.
II. The workers must wear respirators fitted with a constant air supply
III. The area has to be cordoned off by plastic sheeting, at least 200 nanometers thick.
IV. Waste material must be placed in well labelled wetted containers.
The waste must be placed in well labelled wetted containers to be disposed of in special areas designated by laws and relevant environmental and health authorities.