Asbestos cement is a form of “non-friable” asbestos, meaning the fibres are within the matrix of the material and are not readily released unless disturbed. By disturbed we principally mean broken, sawn, drilled, sanded or water blasted, all of which are banned actions under the current ‘Guidelines for the Management and Removal of Asbestos’ administered by the Department of Labour (OSH).
Asbestos cement occurs in plain sheet form, corrugated “Super 6” form, guttering and downpipes, flattened corrugation “Coverline” profile, and in a range of wood-grained finishes. By far the most common form of asbestos in New Zealand is asbestos cement. Two major companies produced the product for many decades, with well publicised health consequences to many of those involved in the manufacturing process.
By far the most common form of asbestos in New Zealand homes is asbestos cement
In the domestic situation, houses built prior to the early 1980’s are likely to have asbestos cement in some form somewhere. Fibrolite eaves, gables, cladding and sheds are very common, as are Super 6 roofs and fences. Indeed the Group Housing divisions (i.e. Neil Housing & Universal Homes) that sprang up throughout the country over this period were often clad exclusively with Asbestos containing materials.
As previously mentioned the hazard associated with this sort of material mainly relates to inadvertent disturbance. However keeping asbestos cement in a good serviceable condition, lichen free and painted (referred to in the industry as encapsulation), not only minimises passive asbestos fibre release it also extends the useful life of the product. When purchasing or planning renovations, consideration of asbestos cement products is vital due to the potential hazard as well as additional costs of removal and disposal.
When investigating possible sources of asbestos in the home, vinyl floors are often overlooked. It is in fact extremely common for houses to have such products utilised as existing floor coverings, or underneath newer replacement vinyl. Unlike textured ceilings and fibre cement that were phased out in the early eighties, asbestos backed vinyl’s were imported into the country well into the late 80’s, and possibly into the 90’s.
The typical mottled, tile patterned, geometric styled, or false wood grained vinyl’s that are so much of 70’s and 80’s décor in particular are often backed with white asbestos. It is important to stress the fact that if left alone the risk associated with these products is virtually nil. However the act of pulling up these vinyl’s, and in particular sanding the associated backing material down to expose floorboards beneath is an entirely different proposition. This can liberate high airborne asbestos concentrations. Most commercial floor sanders are aware of this hazard and may refuse to sand such products. Some who have attempted to sand residual asbestos backing have felt the wrath of OSH via the courts!
Assessment for Asbestos
1) Determine age of building and/or material. With textured ceilings and fibrocement, if age of the building structure or material is no older than the mid 1980’s then it is extremely unlikely that these materials contain asbestos. If unsure or material is older than mid 80’s then testing will be required. For vinyl based floor coverings if material is less than 10 years old (1992) then it is most unlikely that the material contains asbestos. All other will require testing.
2) If testing is required then approx 20 to 30 grams of texture or approx. 2 inch square piece of fibrocement / vinyl flooring (inclusive of backing) to be placed in a sealable plastic bag.Make Enquiry