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The Unseen Danger of Asbestos Cement Sheeting in Melbourne, Victoria
Australian knows all too well how dangerous asbestos can be. Thanks to the awareness campaigns run by The Australian Workers Union (AWU) that sensitizes residents on the need of getting rid of asbestos-containing material (ACM) from Australia by the year 2030. Even though the use of this material was banned since 2003, you can still find this fibrous material in building constructions everywhere, including Melbourne.
One of the most common ACMs to come across when doing renovations in older buildings in Melbourne is probably fibrous cement sheeting. The most likely form of fibrous cement to come upon is flat sheet fibro, often used for outside cladding of homes, garages, and sheds. You can find fibrous sheeting in various areas within your house such as in toilets, backrooms, and bathrooms.
The main manufacturer of fibrous sheeting was James Hardie & Co who produced a broad range of products under the brand name fibrolite. In the 1960’s, the company gave some products more marketable names such as Colorbord, Coverline, Tilux, Hardiflex, Shadowline, and Asbestoslux. Fibrous sheeting was also produced by Wunderlich and under the names of Durawall and Durabestos.
These sheeting were used extensively since the 1950s and still being used today, albeit in non-asbestos form. Fibrous sheeting has unique features that other materials don’t have. Therefore, it came in handy when solving most construction material design issues.
Reasons why fibrous cement sheeting were preferred over other
- Fibro can simply be nailed to a wooden framed structure. Thus, making construction easy and cheap.
- Fibro possess an excellent affordability and durability
- Fibrous sheeting are resistant to heat, chemicals, and possess high tensile strength
Because of these properties, most manufacturers preferred fibrous cement to other building materials, insulating/acoustic materials and friction products. A good example is the cheap and versatile cement sheeting (fibro) that was used to build low-cost Housing Trust homes. Fibro was used for exterior wall claddings, eaves, and splash-backs in laundries and wall linings in bathrooms. Fibre wool was used for insulation. Housing Trust Homes management said fibro was safe if at all it remained undamaged or left undisturbed. What the Housing Trust Homes didn’t reckon is the fact that even with all those benefits, fibro had severe repercussions.
Asbestos materials that initially worked like magic in different building applications later became the cause of the most deadly ailments in Australia. Inhaling airborne fibres leads to lung cancer, asbestosis, mesothelioma or pleural. Residents who inhaled even the tiniest single piece of fibre were at risk of going down with life-threatening diseases.
Those who dared to drill, saw, grind or sand any of their housing material that had traces of ACMs became highly exposed to airborne fibres, and this eventually lead to their death.
Locations where fibrous sheeting may be found
Fibro might be found in many areas and locations within your building. It was used as a building material in the past, commonly as a mixing material with cement. It is used because of its excellent mechanical properties such as fire and water resistant. Building materials used in Melbourne VIC that may contain fibrous sheeting are:
- Corrugated roof
- Internal cement sheeting
- Roofing and siding products
- Water pipes
- External and internal cladding
- Fire blankets
Although many countries have banned the use of asbestos in building constructions, asbestos-fibro is still present in some buildings in Melbourne. Unfortunately, an ACM crumbles and flakes very easily. Once a fibrous material crumbles and flakes, it releases harmful dust that circulates in the air. This dust is a very risky or harmful carcinogen because it is responsible for causing lung cancer. For this reason, it is highly recommended that you have your home inspected for ACMs if you suspect that it has fibre or once you buy a house. While in some cases an ACM is left open, there are others where it is enclosed.
This is why you should hire experts to inspect your building for ACMs and remove them if present. It is only experienced professionals who can tell whether an ACM in your home has started to crumble and flake then remove it safely and completely.
Basics of cement sheeting removal in Melbourne
Removing cement sheeting in Australia is a two-step process. First, the material in question must be tested first to ascertain if indeed it contains the dreaded fibre. If you are not sure if an ACM is present, treat the material in question as if it is an ACM. Exposure to airborne fibres hardly gives you a second chance. Breathing in any dust cannot be reversed in any way.
The second step is to have it competently removed. To do this, you should take note of the following:
- For the residents of Melbourne, notify Work safe Occupational Health and Safety regulations.
- Make sure that only certified, well-trained and licensed contractors and inspectors are involved in both testing and removal.
- Suspected materials should be tested by one testing company and removed by a different company. This is to avoid conflict of interest.
- It is advisable to temporarily move your entire household while fibrous-removal work is taking place.
The cost of asbestos removal in Melbourne, Victoria
Most contractors charge for the removal of cement sheeting on the basis of the area where fibrous materials are to be removed instead of charging hourly rates. The cost that you will incur for removal job will vary on the basis of several factors.
- The difficulty and scope of the task: For instance, removing the cement sheeting in steep, sloppy roofs is difficult than removing it in shed roofs.
- Size of the sheeting to be removed: Generally, larger ACM sheets are easier to remove than smaller ACM sheets. In some cases, you will pay an estimated cost of $35-$55 for the removal of each sheet.
- Tipping costs: Usually, the minimal tipping cost is $450-$650.
Generally, the cost for fibre-elimination is considered individually. For instance, you might pay $40-$65 per square metre of the external cladding. For roofing removal, you can be charged $50-$75 per square metre. For any task, the minimum cost will most likely be about $350. However, the cost of a larger job is less than that of a smaller job.
Since there are many factors that determine the cost of removing ACMs, provide more information to the removalists while getting an online quote. Without accurate, sufficient information, the removalists might charge you more for a simple task. Ideally, a quote that you get online can be revised drastically after the inspection of your property. Other costs that you may incur include fibre-monitoring cost, which can range between $1000 and $1500. There are also cases where you may incur post-removal inspection cost and air monitoring cost.
Human health is the key factor
You are mistaken if you think that ACMs are problem of the past. The shocking part about the material in Australia today is the fact that ACMs still present in two-thirds of Australian houses. If your house was built before the mid-1980s, you might be the potential victim of this carcinogenic material. It is reported that the annual number of new cases of mesothelioma in Australia increased from 156 in 1982 to a peak of 667 in 2010 (http://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/). The newest data shows that asbestosis was the underlying cause of 125 deaths in 2011.
Figure 1. New cases of mesothelioma from 1982 to 2010 (Source: AIHW Australian Cancer Incidence and Mortality Books)
However, do not panic when you found fibrous sheeting in your building! As long as they remain intact and left undisturbed, you are safe. The threat occurs when they are interfered with either by natural means such as time or human interference. When disturbed or damaged, fibre is released into the air and may become airborne.
Currently, the primary source of exposure to fibres is old buildings undergoing a renovation of demolition. If you are planning to do a renovation or demolition work, you risk grave repercussion from fibre exposure. That is why it’s important to engage a professional contractor to get rid of friable and non-friable ACMs from your building.
Carrying out this task yourself is dangerous; not only for you but also the people around you! Safe work Victoria also recommends you to seek help and advice from a professional contractor when you suspected the presence of ACMs in your building.
Remember! You have to keep in mind that DIY removal jobs and using DIY testing kits may do more harm than good. Only contact a licensed and professional contractor for the safe handling of fibrous materials.
Vast and extensive services provided by our competent contractors
We are committed to your health and safety; this is why we only endorse knowledgeable and skilled contractors who get the job done safely and efficiently. Before our approved members remove fibrous sheeting in your residential or commercial building, they will conduct an extensive survey and testing. Their team will identify the presence of fibro in your building to come up with the most appropriate testing and sampling services.
We connect you to highly experienced contractors who provide a broad range of services including demolition, elimination, testing, management plan, roof removal, air monitoring, consultancy, demolition, soil remediation, and emergency services.
- Asbestos Removal – Removing all fibrous cement sheeting on your property, starting from fencing to roofing materials
- Asbestos Testing – Sampling and testing by a certified assessor via an accredited lab
- Roof Removal – Removal or replacement of the entire roof or supporting structures
- Management Plan – Creating an effective, efficient and practical control plan for ACMs at your premises
- Air monitoring – Complete air monitoring during and after removal when required
- Consultant – Performing a thorough inspection to check the condition of fibrous material at your premises
- Demolition plan – Demolition survey before any refurbishment or demolition projects
- Soil remediation – Conducting a detailed assessment of contaminated soil to assess the need of removal job. Including the disposal of contaminated soil to a legal facility.
- Emergency repair – Emergency services, including cleanup procedure, upon emergency situations and natural disasters
Asbestos Watch Melbourne is your asbestos problem solution
We are the home to high-quality (HQ) professional asbestos removal contractors who are extensively trained, exceptionally skilled, and highly-experienced in the greater Melbourne area. We connect clients with reliable and competent contractors who have been thoroughly vetted to ascertain their ability to deliver and meet customer expectations and needs. If you are looking for a contractor who is time conscious, detail oriented and offers competitive prices, We are the ideal place for it.
Our approved members are putting safety and quality at the center of all they do. They have the right certification, training, and offer flexible solutions in demanding situations. their team of professionals has the capabilities and experience to manage even the most complex or challenging projects. they have met the expectations of our clients in the past by delivering satisfactory results for them. Contact us to have a peace of mind since we are considered as one of the best service providers in the greater Melbourne region.
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