Despite the well-known risks of asbestos, the material is commonly found in properties nationwide. Asbestos was frequently used in construction across New Zealand between the 1940s and the late 1980s due to its durability, and has only been banned as a building material since 1987. This means a large number of structures nationwide are likely to contain asbestos fibres.
Fortunately, there’s no need to panic, as the material isn’t necessarily dangerous. If your structure is in good condition, it’s likely there has been minimal asbestos deterioration, which means your breathing environment won’t be compromised.
However, if you know there is asbestos present in your home, it pays to be cautious; take an asbestos sample from your home or business and have it sent for expert testing with industry professionals such as Chemcare. To ensure everyone is following the right steps to safe asbestos sampling, we’ve created a quick guide below.
What should I do if I suspect there is asbestos on my property?
If you’re uncertain about whether or not there may be asbestos on your property, the first step is a visual check. You may not know what asbestos looks like though this doesn’t necessarily require you to perform a thorough once-over of your building - instead, simply look through any architectural plans, as these should have notes on the building materials used during the initial construction. Other documents that may assist are compliance certificates for renovation or past asbestos testing reports.
By New Zealand law, only certified professionals can conduct asbestos treatment or removal projects, meaning there will be recorded documentation of this work taking place.
If you’ve identified that asbestos building materials were used in the construction of your property, you should take extra care in collecting a safe sample to send for expert asbestos testing.
How do I safely collect an asbestos sample?
Collecting your asbestos sample needs to be done safely, to ensure you don’t inhale any potentially dangerous dust or debris. Auckland Regional Public Health Service offers a dedicated guide to assist you, step by step, in collecting the asbestos sample you need to send for testing at an accredited lab.
1) Identify an area of your building that you think may contain asbestos - this is where you’ll perform your safe asbestos sampling.
2) Use a sharp tool, such as a knife, to gently dig at the material you suspect has asbestos in it. The size of the sample you take will depend on where you get it from.
● For ceiling cladding, it’s recommended to take a heaped teaspoon of debris from two different areas - making up a total sample size of one tablespoon.
● When testing floor coverings, a 25mm full-thickness square piece of material - including the adhesive layer - is ideal for accurate asbestos testing.
3) Gather this debris into a plastic bag - ensure there is no hole in it and that no dust can escape from any perforations. Seal the plastic bag thoroughly with tape. Alternatively, use a ziplock bag and seal it with tape as well, to be certain no dust is released.
What safety precautions should I take?
You’re now one step closer to ensuring your property is safe. When taking your asbestos sample, however, it’s important to follow a few safety precautions yourself. This will help minimise the amount of dust released and protect yourself and others from inhalation. Follow these basic tips for safer asbestos testing:
1) Cover your mouth and nose with a dust mask from a hardware retailer. Alternatively, if you can, use certified respirator equipment to be completely safe. You should also use overalls and gloves to cover your bare skin and clothes.
2) Before taking your asbestos sample, gently mist water over the material. This will dampen it and reduce the likelihood of dust rising during collection.
3) Ensure any heating, cooling or air-ventilation systems are switched off while you’re taking your sample. This further minimises the chance of asbestos dust circulating in the air, which can be a danger to both yourself and those around you.
You should also check on safe ways of disposing asbestos dust-laced clothing prior to performing your sampling - experts in asbestos removal and treatment can help with this process.
What are the next steps?
Once you have collected your asbestos sample for testing, arrange for the material to be sent to an accredited lab by contacting the Chemcare team. Our experts can determine approximate rates of deterioration and the risk it poses to your indoor air quality and safety. From there, we can work with you to decide on the next steps, whether it’s recommending asbestos encapsulation, a removal project, or providing tips on how you can reduce the risk of asbestos material becoming dangerous in the future.
Reach out to the Chemcare team today if you’re concerned about your property, and ensure your safety and peace of mind.