Many people know one thing about asbestos.

 Asbestos = bad.

The truth is, there is a lot more to this material than meets the eye. What’s more, the more you know, the more informed you can be about where to find it, what it can do to your health, and how to handle it if you come across it. Read on to learn more about asbestos. The information below may surprise you.

1. Asbestos is not a single material.

Most people refer to asbestos as one material that lurks in many old building materials. Asbestos is actually a natural material that incorporates six different silicate minerals. While they are all similar in the respect that they are resistant to heat and strong, they are still different.

Amosite (brown), chrysotile (white), and crocidolite (blue) asbestos were all commonly used in building materials. Anthophyllite, actinolite, and tremolite were not. They are rarer minerals and were not used in a commercial capacity. What all six minerals share in common, however, is that they are hazardous to human health.

2. It’s responsible for illness and death.

To look at asbestos, you would struggle to see how it could cause any health problems. After all, it’s a mineral and one that’s inconspicuous to the human eye. In fact, an unloaded gun looks more dangerous. In reality though, asbestos is a deadly material that is responsible for around 100,000 deaths every year.

Malignant diseases related to asbestos exposure include ovarian cancer, lung cancer, pleural and peritoneal mesothelioma, and laryngeal cancer. There is also a potential link between asbestos and colon cancer, stomach cancer, and pharyngeal cancer.

Asbestos exposure is responsible for a number of serious conditions

Asbestos exposure is responsible for a number of serious conditions

Those who have been in contact with asbestos can also be at risk of non-malignant conditions such as asbestosis, pleural thickening and effusion, hyaline pleural plagues, peritoneal and pericardial effusion, and atelectasis.

If you have been exposed to asbestos - either short-term or long-term, see your GP for help and advice on the next step to take.

3. Countries still mine it.

Given the risks and deadliness of asbestos, and the number of countries who ban its use, you would think the asbestos is all but dead and gone. Unfortunately, that’s not yet the case. In 2015 and 2016, Russia, China, India, Brazil, and Kazakhstan were world leaders for the production of asbestos. Brazil banned it in 2017.  

China used over 570,000 metric tons of asbestos in 2013, while Russia is the second-largest consumer and produces up to 75 percent of the world’s asbestos supply. Change is on its way, but it’s slow.

The World Health Organisation hopes to eliminate asbestos-related diseases through the ban of all asbestos type, registries of those who have been exposed, and safer substitute materials.

4. It’s used in some strange things.

Most people know that asbestos was a common material in building supplies - and still is in some parts of the world. However, it has also been found in talcum powder, school supplies, makeup, and more.

In the 1930s, it was utilised in toothpaste for its abrasion and was even found in cigarette filter papers. If you pay close attention to the snow scene in The Wizard of Oz, you will notice that it’s fake. What’s more, that snow contains asbestos too.

5. You shouldn’t remove it by yourself.

New Zealand homes are not exempt from the threat of asbestos. It was popular in building materials from throughout the 1930s until the mid-1980s and could be lurking where you least expect it. Even though asbestos could be present in your home, that doesn’t mean it’s a danger. As long as your building materials are in good condition, they may not release asbestos fibres into the air. 

Asbestos could be in your roofing, siding shingles, insulation, textured paint, gas-fired fireplaces, stove-top pads, wood-burning stove floors and walls, and even flooring. Even the soil around your house could contain asbestos.

Safe Asbestos removal is beyond the expertise and resources of DIY-ers.

Safe Asbestos removal is beyond the expertise and resources of DIY-ers.

If you know your home has asbestos, or you believe it does, then you can’t remove it yourself. The danger of this material means you need to call in a qualified expert who can take care of the problem in the safest possible way.

What Do I Need to Do?

Asbestos is a dangerous material that requires expert assistance for removal. If the time has come to complete home renovations, then seek expert help before you begin. Someone in the asbestos industry can identify problem areas and can offer advice and assistance on what to do next.