What are some safer alternatives to asbestos?

What are some safer alternatives to asbestos?

Before it was discovered to be dangerous, asbestos was a widely used building material which provided a number of benefits. What are some safe, modern alternatives?

How to choose the right asbestos removal company

How to choose the right asbestos removal company

The removal and safe disposal of asbestos requires a service with quite specific licences overseen and issued by the New Zealand Ministry of Health. (through the Ministry’s “Worksafe New Zealand” department).

Listed below in this article, is a summary of licences which any building owner can ask to view, in order to prove that  an asbestos assessment or removal is being undertaken by an appropriately qualified people. There is occasional criticism expressed that these regulations are too strict. However, upon the fact that around 170 New Zealand fatalities continue to be recorded annually, as a result of asbestos related diseases, the Government rests its case.

It is unknown how many tonnes of asbestos-laced products remain in New Zealand’s infrastructure such as buildings and underground pipes, but the volume is safely in the tens of millions of  tonnes. It will take decades to eliminate asbestos from daily human existence and the need to remain vigilant in how asbestos is removed will always need detailed Government regulations.


1.   Site sampling and testing to ascertain where it exists and how safe, or otherwise, it might be at the time.

2.   Developing a long term asbestos management plan to ensure everyone on the site is kept permanently safe from exposure.

3.   Removal carried out by experts who know how to remove asbestos safely.



The Government introduced the new Health and Safety (Asbestos) Regulations in 2016. These Regulations strengthened the requirements of the asbestos removal companies:

  • Thorough training in all asbestos related services making sure all health regulations are fulfilled

  • By implementing a system of checks and balances, such as practice checks by inspectors

  • A requirement that class A removal experts have certified safety management systems

A “Class A” removal service can:

Deal with any type or quantity of asbestos- containing material regardless of its condition

A “Class B” licensed service can:

Deal with any “non friable” asbestos material; that is, the asbestos is not crumbly, flakey, or likely to become airborne. It is contained within other materials such as wall boards or roof tiles.

No licence is required provided:

  1. The asbestos materials to be removed are within a ten square metre area.

  2. The asbestos within the material is “non friable”- unlikely to become airborne.

  3. The ten square metres includes the cumulative whole course of the removal; this means, for example, that a 100 square metre area of asbestos material cannot be removed at a rate of ten square metres a day over ten days. This becomes a service requiring a class B licence.



An asbestos tester is licensed to monitor air quality during the removal of asbestos.

The assessor will ensure that once the removal of asbestos materials is finished, that the atmosphere is clear of any asbestos fibres. It is also important that this clearance is permanent throughout the removal process

Specifically, an assessor’s licence is required to manage  all monitoring all Class A (“friable”) asbestos removal sites.

Class B sites can have a clearance certificate granted by an “independent competent person.” Such a person can be a project manager or a person from the removal service.


What are the costs involved in the removal of asbestos?

What are the costs involved in the removal of asbestos?

This checklist can help any property owner to determine the cost of removing asbestos.

Because the health and safety regulations vary between residential buildings and commercial buildings, the costs also vary for homeowners and other property owners.

There are two checks any property owner can undertake to get started:

  1. First check that the building was built before or after the year 2000. Asbestos was virtually eliminated from building products from that year, so any structure built after that date is probably free from the problem of asbestos.

  2. Any building built before the year 2000 will need to have a certified sampling company check for asbestos.

Costs for this service vary between the different licensed companies but a rule-of-thumb indicator is that one visit to take a sample for laboratory testing of asbestos on any part of a building, should cost about the same as any other service attending to a job on the property; such as a plumber or electrician.

The cost can increase if extra samples are taken, which will also cover their processing in a licensed laboratory with a report back to the property owner.

The asbestos sampling is a first step in an asbestos management plan for the building. It is also valuable information to be held in the property’s file in case of future re-sale. Buyers will ask for this type of information.

If a building is shown to have asbestos in its materials, what will that cost?


Residential properties.

It is important to obtain quotations from licensed disposal companies, who will be happy to provide a quote once they have a full understanding of what needs to be removed. The cost varies from Class A to Class B. The general rule-of-thumb is that the Class A jobs that you will find inside the house such as asbestos vinyl flooring, will be more expensive than the Class B jobs you’ll find outside such as asbestos cladding.

You’ll also find that the square metre cost does not include the replacement of the removed materials with non-asbestos materials,

150 Kiwis die each year from Asbestos related illness

150 Kiwis die each year from Asbestos related illness

Homeowners, under the new regulations, are not required to produce their own asbestos management plans. The new regulations allow for professional services to help homeowners manage incidents of asbestos. Builders, plumbers, electricians, roofers and other professionals will raise the issue of asbestos when considering a job however large or small.

Under the regulations, homeowners are also permitted to remove up to ten square metres of asbestos material as part of their occasional home maintenance. However, the asbestos must be “non-friable.” This means it must not be crumbly or dusty. And that is the time asbestos can be inhaled and cause serious long term health problems, probably death.

Any home owner cannot be accused of “over-doing” safety with asbestos. However, asbestos-related illness continue to take the lives of over 150 New Zealanders every year.

Identifying asbestos materials in a home is the first step to a safer future for the occupants of all buildings.. How and when the asbestos materials are removed, can, in most cases, be planned according to a budget available. Asbestos, if it is embedded into plaster or cement materials, is quite safe and unlikely to be released into the atmosphere and cause harm to people. This is a factor which can be taken into account when considering its removal and the costs involved.

Costs for commercial, industrial and retail property owners

These property owners are required to produce and keep on site, an asbestos management plan.

This plan enables all occupants of buildings to understand where asbestos is located and under what time frame it is planned to be replaced.

Similarly, the fact that asbestos is often contained or “bound” into different construction materials, means it can be safe for many years, giving property owners time to budget its replacement with non-asbestos materials.

Each plan begins with the Checklist at the beginning of this article.

If you are concerned about the asbestos in your property and the asbestos survey has proven that the materials need to be removed, Chemcare is a licensed asbestos removal company that can help. Get in contact today to get an asbestos removal quote.

Friable asbestos in the home

Friable asbestos in the home

“Friable” asbestos is the most dangerous form. This describes the “crumbly” state of asbestos fibres.Imagine dry flour held out on the palm of a hand on a windy day and this will illustrate the danger asbestos offers on a windy day.

The difference is that asbestos fibres cannot be seen and they are dangerous, minute forms of rock that can be inhaled into the lungs and do fatal damage over time. The most dangerous situation for homeowners, is the discovery of building materials containing asbestos which are damaged, allowing asbestos fibres free to float in the surrounding air. The microscopic fibres of asbestos still remain the cause of about 170  New Zealand fatalities every year.

If fibres are floating free in the air of a home, it may be decades before any occupant or visitor, becomes aware that the fibres accidentally inhaled in one moment, are the  cause of death many years later.

Asbestos in the home

Asbestos fibres are contained in many different forms of building materials. The most common in New Zealand include:

Homes built up to the year 2000 probably contain asbestos. The incidence declines after this year as regulations began to eliminate asbestos from all building materials. However, any home built in the early part of the 21st century may still contain some asbestos.

For homes built in earlier years, the likelihood of asbestos can be found in:

  • Old floor tiles,

  • Ceiling tiles,

  • Roof shingles and flashing,

  • Some exterior cladding

  • Interior wall linings.

  • Insulation (around boilers, ducts, pipes, sheeting, fireplaces),

  • pipe cement, and joint compounds


Emergency steps to take when damaged building materials containing asbestos, are discovered:

  1. Immediately close off the area.

  2. Call a licensed asbestos removal company and arrange the urgent “sealing” of the asbestos materials.

  3. If the area is indoors, this may be easier.

  4. If the area is outdoors, safety is more difficult to determine.

Tackling damaged asbestos materials indoors:

  • Close doors to seal off the area. Also “seal” the joints in the doors and windows. Asbestos fibres are microscopic and can be blown through the smallest of crevices.

  • Leave external doors and windows open so that airflow can remove any potentially airborne fibres.

  • Cover the floor with heavy-duty plastic sheeting to catch dust, debris and asbestos material.

  • Keep family, visitors and pets away from the area until the work is completed.

Tackling damaged asbestos materials outdoors:

  • Keep neighbours safe by informing them and discuss any protection they might need to take, such as keeping windows and doors closed for the duration of the work.

  • Seal off the indoor areas of the home from the outdoor areas, close windows and doors, seal off any other crevices.

  • Cover the surrounding ground area with heavy duty plastic. Asbestos fibres can be trodden or float to ground level  and remain there for years. Remember that asbestos is pre-historic rock and will not decay. It can become dangerous at ground level, uplifted by the next strong wind or when the soil is disturbed.

  • Any household goods such furniture, toys, tools , even motor vehicles, are best removed from the work site. They can all be potential carriers of asbestos fibres.

  • Keep household members, visitors and pets away until the work is completed.



Things NOT to do:

  • It may seem logical to wet down areas containing asbestos fibres, but this is not always helpful and may cause further dangers for people, especially if asbestos roof tiles are being removed.

  • Work during high wind. The safest option is to keep the wind off the damaged area with heavy plastic sheeting and weights. Begin the removal, preferably by licensed asbestos removal services, once the weather is calm.

If you aren’t sure about the state of the asbestos in your home, call a licensed asbestos assessor in to give you an educated answer. Once you’re sure that the asbestos is friable or not, make a plan about how you will deal with it. Chemcare is happy to consult with you to find the best asbestos management plan for you.

How does asbestos affect the environment?

How does asbestos affect the environment?

The negative impact of airborne asbestos contamination on human health is well-documented - what isn’t is the fibres’ other effects on the external environment.