You love to do home improvement projects, and you want to tackle part of your home that you think may have asbestos in it. Before you start, be aware that asbestos can be a deadly substance that leads to mesothelioma, a rare but deadly form of cancer that affects the protective lining of your internal organs.
Before you start removing anything with asbestos or working around any area that may have asbestos contamination, review the following tips – they may save your life:
1. Do not expose yourself for even a short amount of time
If you are in the midst of a home improvement project and you just want to forge ahead and not worry about the potential asbestos in front of you, do not yield to that urge. Even a few hours or a single job which involves inhaling asbestos can turn deadly.
For example, when one man from England removed his old boiler (which had been insulated with asbestos), the job didn't take very long. Sadly, although it was his only encounter with asbestos and only lasted a brief amount of time, he was diagnosed with mesothelioma as a result of that exposure and quickly died from the condition.
2. Research the age of your material
Asbestos was used in Australia until the mid 1980s. If the building or home you are working on is older than that, you may have asbestos on your hands. If you are working outside, consider the ages of buildings that may have been demolished in your area as well as the ages of existing structures.
If you know confidently that the materials with which you are working are newer than that, you don't have to worry about it. However, if they are older, you want to test them or asbestos.
3. Test your work area
If you suspect that asbestos may be present in the area in which you want to work, you need to run a test. Whether you are dealing with soil, insulation, paint or a range of other substances, you can buy small kits to test the asbestos levels.
Typically, these kits come with a small plastic container and a pair of protective gloves. Slip on the gloves, take a bit of your substance – a few paint chips, a piece of insulation, a scoop of soil, etc – and slip it into the container. Then, mail it to the lab for detection. Once you know definitely whether or not you have asbestos, you can make a well informed decision about moving forward. If possible, you should wear safety gear during this step.
4. Seal it
If you decide to do your own DIY work, the most effective and easiest thing to do with asbestos is to seal it. If it is in your soil, pour a stamped concrete patio. If it is on your walls or flooring, paint over it or cover it with new vinyl flooring. If covering and sealing it is not an option, make sure that you work safely.
5. Take safety precautions
Ideally, you should hire an asbestos mitigation professional from a company like Asbestos Extraction & Containment, but if you want to work on a small project on your own, make sure you have the right safety equipment.
Do not rely on a flimsy dust or surgical mask. Instead, cover your whole body in disposable overalls and wear a respirator.
Do whatever you can to minimise stirring up dust. For example, use hand tools instead of power tools. Cover the area in wet sheets to help trap the dust and prevent it from flying around, and when you are done working, cover your wet sheets in plastic sheeting, securely ball everything up, put another bag around it, add a warning label, and then, contact the council for legal places to dispose of asbestos-containing materials.