Asbestos cement products and fibres
What is asbestos?
Asbestos is a naturally occurring silicate mineral made up of long, thin fibrous crystals. Its heat resistance, its sound insulation properties and also its strength made it useful in construction. Many houses and buildings constructed before 2008 may contain asbestos.
Where would you find it?
A great many products and materials used in buildings contain asbestos. The assumption is that buildings constructed pre 1950 are asbestos free, but it would be wrong not to check. Older buildings will have had maintenance, repairs and possibly renovations done to them, which may have included asbestos materials.
Asbestos products were in use in South Africa until mid-2008. These include:
- Asbestos cement roof tiles, shingles, flowerpots and garden ornaments.
- Textured paint and in patching compounds used on wall and ceiling joints.
- Artificial ashes and embers used in gas-fired fireplaces.
- Older stove-top pads may have some asbestos compounds.
- Asbestos cement sheets to protect walls and floors around wood-burning stoves.
- Some vinyl floor tiles and the backing of vinyl sheet flooring and adhesives.
- An asbestos blanket or tape used to wrap hot water and steam pipes in the older houses.
- Asbestos cement in roof sheeting, flues and ventilation systems.
- Oil and coal furnaces, electric panel heaters and door gaskets may have asbestos insulation.
- Asbestos cement sheets in partition walls, fire-proofing panels, ceiling boards, ceiling tiles and panels below windows.
- Houses built between 1930 and 1950 may have loose fill asbestos as insulation between cavity walls and under floorboards.
- Asbestos in carpet underfelt, in fuse boxes and in metal cladding.
- Window cills, barge boards and fascia boards made of asbestos cement.
- Some waterproofing products also contained asbestos.
Should you go looking for it?
Undisturbed asbestos usually poses no problems. Therefore, don’t look for it unless you believe it may have perished, or is unsafe. Furthermore, it is often difficult to tell the difference between the asbestos materials and non-asbestos materials. We are often not aware of any exposure to asbestos.
How do you protect yourself?
Do not work on an item you suspect may contain asbestos! Furthermore, protective equipment is imperative when working with asbestos. This includes a suitable face mask, disposable overall etc. In addition, wash your hands and face regularly and never sand, drill or saw asbestos materials.
How should you dispose of asbestos?
Never just chuck it in a skip. Make sure you double bag it and dispose of it properly at a municipal tip. The South African Department of Labour’s Asbestos Regulations governs the removal and disposal of asbestos. Furthermore, only approved asbestos contractors can carry out the disposal of large quantities of asbestos and asbestos materials.