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    Identifying asbestos ceilings and understanding health risks

    Asbestos Check

    Asbestos containing materials were commonly used in Australian homes for their fireproofing and heat resistance properties.

    Where do homes have asbestos ceilings?

    Common in Sydney and Melbourne houses constructed between the 1950s and the 1980s, asbestos ceilings were used because of their fireproofing and heat resistance properties. In homes, asbestos ceilings are most commonly found in bathrooms, laundries and garages as these are rooms where a fire may start unattended. Asbestos ceilings were used to reduce the risk of fire spreading through the ceiling. Verandah ceilings and asbestos eaves were also used to reduce the risk of fire spreading to adjoining properties.

    What types of asbestos were used for ceilings?

    The three common asbestos types used in ceilings included chrysotile (white asbestos), amosite (brown asbestos) and crocidolite (blue asbestos). Common asbestos ceilings include Asbestos Cement Sheet; Asbestos Insulating Board (AIB); Asbestos Ceiling Tiles; and sprayed insulation (vermiculite or popcorn asbestos ceiling.

    How can I tell if my ceiling contains asbestos?

    The best way to definitively determine whether a ceiling contains asbestos is to have a sample tested under a microscope. If there is any suspicion that the ceiling may contain asbestos, one should immediately organise for a NATA accredited asbestos inspector to collect a sample due to the potential health issues, particularly if the ceiling is friable.

    When sampling the ceiling, asbestos fibres may fall within the breathing zone posing a risk. Correct sampling techniques for asbestos ceilings include wetting the surface down, using drop sheets, and wearing protective respiratory equipment and disposable overalls.

    What are the health risks from asbestos ceilings?

    The risk of asbestos related health issues will depend on whether the asbestos ceiling comprises of bonded or friable asbestos, the condition of the material and the use and occupancy of the area. Bonded asbestos ceilings made of cement sheet and corrugated asbestos are generally quite stable when they are in good condition and are only cause for concern during renovations or major refurbishment.

    However, friable asbestos ceilings such as popcorn asbestos ceilings are potentially quite hazardous due to fibres that may be released from even small disturbances. Removing the asbestos ceiling tiles to gain access to the ceiling can cause the edges of the panels to rub on the frames that hold them in place creating dust. Over a period of years, this can create a significant health hazard. Special precautions are therefore, required when accessing asbestos ceiling tiles and panels.

    Asbestos Check provides commercial and domestic clients with extensive asbestos inspection services covering asbestos identification, testing, inspection and management.

    Contact Asbestos Check
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