Does your insulation have asbestos?

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Because of its low cost, effective insulating properties, and simplicity of installation, the naturally occurring material asbestos was widely employed in insulation products during the 1950s and 1960s.

But breathing in the small fibres can cause mesothelioma, a serious type of lung cancer. Asbestos was frequently employed in concentrations between 15% and 100% in roof insulation.

Thermal insulation made of asbestos typically comes in four different forms: loose-fill, wrap, block, and spray-on. It's crucial to avoid disturbing any suspected asbestos-containing roof insulation and to see a specialist.

Because asbestos can be harmful if inhaled, it must be handled carefully and removed using the correct safety precautions.

How can I tell if dangerous asbestos is in my roof insulation?

Asbestos was very popular in the 1950s and 1960s

During the height of asbestos’ popularity in the 1950s and ’60s, numerous brands employed the material in insulation. Asbestos was cheap, had great insulative qualities, and was easy to install on the roofs of new homes.

Unfortunately, the tiny fibres wreaked devastation on those installers who breathed them in, leaving them crippled with mesothelioma, an aggressive form of lung cancer. During the 1950s and 60s, the infamous Mr Fluffy disaster in Canberra saw the company pump loose-fill asbestos into hundreds of roof cavities making these homes highly dangerous timebombs for their occupants.

It’s estimated up to 30,000 people were affected by asbestos-related diseases, and around 700 workers died. The homes were later compulsorily acquired by the ACT government and demolished.

asbestos from insulation in someones hand
Although providing good insulative qualities, Abestos demonstrated detrimental consequences for installers and handlers

Asbestos was commonly found in older roofing insulation jobs in concentrations ranging from 15% to 100%. Loose-fill, pipe wrap, and spray-on asbestos insulation were all used by the building industry and remained in many buildings up to this day.

Asbestos insulation

Asbestos insulation was the most common cause of asbestos exposure in the twentieth century. Many houses and businesses are still vulnerable to it today. The main reason it was used is that asbestos insulation was commonly thought to be a suitable material for all forms of insulation before its cancer-causing qualities became clear.

Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral with a fibrous texture that resembles cotton. Because of the huge gap between its threads, the material is particularly heat resistant. Manufacturers can readily peel apart asbestos fibres, allowing them to be mixed with other materials, such as magnesia, to create various forms of insulation. Asbestos was so widely used that insulators of homes were known as asbestos workers for most of the twentieth century since they dealt with the substance so frequently.

It has been recognised that home renovators who unwittingly disturb asbestos-containing material such as fibro or insulation are at a high risk of developing lung cancer in subsequent years. For this reason, such danger must be recognised and avoided.

installer using loose-fill abestos insulation
Loose-fill asbestos is easier to inhale and, thus, even more dangerous than standard asbestos insulation

Types of asbestos

Four primary types of asbestos-containing thermal insulation exist; Loose-fill, wrap, block and spray-on.

1. Block insulation

A slab of insulation can be bonded to insulate the wall. In the past, these insulating boards or blocks were nearly exclusively constructed of asbestos. When such blocks are broken or sawed, this poses an exposure risk. Asbestos wall insulation was another name for this product. If you discover such a product in your home, do not disturb it and call in an expert to clearly identify the substance.

2. Spray-on insulation

Spray-on insulation was created to make adding insulation and fireproofing materials to ceilings and walls more convenient. Large commercial structures frequently use spray-on insulation. Asbestos can be found in up to 85% of spray-on insulating materials. This puts the employees who work on such ceilings and walls in grave danger. Furthermore, if walls and ceilings are demolished or sanded, this activity will release asbestos particles into the environment.  Therefore spray-on insulation can be a serious exposure hazard if not adequately contained.

3. Loose-fill insulation

Attic floors, hollow areas in walls, and other structures have all been treated in past decades with loose-fill insulation. Asbestos insulation is frequently built up almost entirely of loose fill and can be very dangerous. Even a slight breeze can make it unstable, allowing asbestos particles to enter the air and your lungs. Asbestos attic insulation is another name for this product. If you find it in the cavity of your home or business, stop disturbing this material at once and seek professional advice immediately.

4. Insulation wrappings:

In older buildings, asbestos is widely utilised to coat water pipes, ducts, and other HVAC components. Asbestos pipe insulation was a severe health danger aboard Navy ships for decades. Pipes were encased in asbestos-based insulation before 1980. This is a form of asbestos-based paper cardboard. When this sort of insulation is damaged or removed, it begins to disintegrate and emits enormous amounts of asbestos dust. Another material called asbestos wool insulation was used to wrap pipes to isolate them.

So if you find insulation material of the 4 kinds, as outlined above, in homes that were built before 1980, we recommend that you assume it contains asbestos. Please consult an expert before disturbing the material and putting you and your family in danger.

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