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Asbestos FAQ: All You Need to Know

What is asbestos?

Asbestos is a mineral that’s found naturally in the environment. There’s six different types of asbestos, and it is always mixed with something else, it’s almost never ‘pure’.

  • Chrysotile is the most common form of asbestos and comes in an unbelievable number of products.
  • Actinolite is a dark colour, and includes calcium, iron, magnesium, and silicon.
  • Tremolite is highly heat resistant. Can be a range of colours from white to dark green, and is found in talc and vermiculite.
  • Crocidolite is the most hazardous asbestos. It’s blue in colour and highly heat resistant.
  • Amosite is brown coloured and very hazardous. 
  • Anthophyllite can be brown or yellowish and contains magnesium and iron. This form is quite rare.
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What is the difference between friable and non friable asbestos?

In New Zealand, we distinguish between friable and non-friable asbestos. Friable asbestos (also called non-bonded or class A) are products that are loose, more prone to damage and releasing fibres into the air. This might include insulation, or ceiling stippling.

Non-friable asbestos (also called bonded asbestos or class B) includes products like vinyl and cement sheets, and are far less likely to fall apart and cause harm.

Why was asbestos so popular in NZ?

Asbestos was the magic building product. It is light, strong, cheap, highly resistant to fire, and also moisture resistant. 

Why is asbestos harmful?

Asbestos, when disturbed, releases tiny fibres into the air. These fibres are inhaled and lodge themselves inside the lungs. Over time—often taking decades to show harm—there are four diseases that can result.

  • Asbestosis, which makes it difficult to breathe. Over time, this develops into:
    • Mesothelioma, an aggressive cancerous tumor
    • Pleural thickening, which is when scar tissue on the lungs thickens the membrane lining, causing breathing difficulties
    • Lung cancer, a common outcome of asbestos inhalation. This can be caused by other things, such as cigarette smoking
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Does my home have asbestos?

In New Zealand, asbestos was banned from use in the 1990’s. However, prior to that, a vast range of products contained asbestos. As a result, almost any home, office, warehouse or commercial building built before the 1990’s will contain some form of asbestos.

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Can I remove asbestos myself?

If there is less that 10m2 of non-friable asbestos (‘Class B’) that can be removed in one session, you can remove it yourself. However considering the health risks, with no level of safe exposure, why would you want to? Is it worth risking your health?

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Does my landlord have to remove asbestos in my home?

No, not unless the asbestos is degrading. If the asbestos is in situ, in good condition, and not being removed or damaged in any way, it’s perfectly safe and your landlord does not have to remove it. However, if it becomes damaged or starts to degrade, they must comply with the laws around safe asbestos removal.

What does asbestos look like?

The sheer range of products that contain asbestos makes it almost impossible to tell what is, or isn’t, asbestos. From dark grey wavy roof coverings, through to pipe lagging, asbestos could be anywhere. In general, Kiwi homes may have asbestos wall panels, stippling on ceilings, vinyl tiles, fire proof coatings, or insulation containing asbestos. See our guide on asbestos identification for more information.

How do I get asbestos testing done?

It’s best to contact the professionals, even for this small step. However, if you wish to do it yourself, respiratory protection is highly encouraged and recommended. First, dampen the area thoroughly with water. Take the sample without creating dust or debris. Wash all utensils used in getting the sample under running water and wiped clean immediately after use. If dust is created by the process, do not sweep or vacuum. Instead, wipe up debris with a damp cloth, and then dispose of this in a plastic bag and sealed.

How much does asbestos removal cost?

Due to the varying nature of asbestos and the products it is in, there is no way to provide an estimate of removal costs without seeing the site. It could cost anywhere between $65m2 and $300m2, so it’s best to contact us for a no obligation quote.

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How can I remove asbestos safely?

A DIY’er or renovation hack will not able to remove asbestos safely. Tiny, invisible fibres must be removed totally, including from the air and soil.

  1. Full PPE must be worn at all times and disposed of after use
  2. User must be decontaminated after removal process
  3. You cannot use power tools to remove asbestos
  4. Asbestos must be disposed of appropriately in approved landfill spaces
  5. All asbestos and PPE must be double-bagged to be disposed of
  6. The area that’s being decontaminated must be made airtight and thoroughly covered in plastic beforehand.
  7. You cannot use a broom, brush, or vacuum to clean up asbestos containing materials

It is a long process with strict guidelines and laws that must be followed. For the health and safety of you and everyone around you, the best option is a licenced asbestos removal expert. Contact us for a quote for asbestos removal in your business, home or rental property.

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