What was the Use of Asbestos in Homes? How can you identify it?

Asbestos was an inexpensive material that had good fire-retardant qualities. It was popular in a variety of building materials. Most homes built before the ban on asbestos contain the material in some way. Asbestos can be found in old insulation, vinyl flooring tiles, cement, caulk, and certain paints.

Before 1990, over 3000 building products had asbestos. Asbestos products are more common in homes built before 1990. Here's a closer look at asbestos and asbestos-containing material (ACMs), in Australian homes.

What was the first time asbestos was used in homes?

Asbestos is more common in homes built after 1990 and prior to 1930. For many decades, asbestos was a popular choice of insulation for homes. It was easy and affordable.

Throughout the 20th century, asbestos was used extensively in construction. Australia began importing asbestos in 1929. Most new homes were built with some form of asbestos by the 1950s.

Asbestos, a natural mineral, has a consistency and texture that is similar to cotton. This fibrous material is an efficient insulator because it slows heat transfer. But, asbestos fibers can have adverse effects on your health.

The deaths from asbestos-related diseases could be as high as 4,000 per year. Exposure to asbestos can cause scarring of the lungs, and other health hazards. Asbestos exposure is often associated with the following conditions:

  • Asbestosis

  • Mesothelioma

  • Lung cancer

  • Asbestos-related Pleural Disease (ARPD).

In the 1990s, manufacturers began slowly phasing out asbestos use. In 2003, the government banned all asbestos use. Despite the ban asbestos can still be found in older buildings and homes.

Vermiculite insulation, as well as asbestos pipe insulation are the most common sources for asbestos in homes. One type of loose-fill insulation is vermiculite insulation. It can have a granular or fluffy texture.

Pipe insulation in older homes, such as those used in basements or furnace rooms, may also contain asbestos. Pipe insulation made from asbestos is usually off-white to grey and can resemble corrugated cardboard.

Modern cellulose insulation, loose fill fibreglass insulation and rock wool insulation are free of asbestos. Some of these options could also look like asbestos-containing materials.

Asbestos may be used by renovators, builders, and other workers in the construction industry. When asbestos is disturbed, it can become more dangerous.

Remember that asbestos is not always a serious health risk. If asbestos-containing material is in good condition, it is usually left in place until renovations or repairs are required.

Because asbestos can be dangerous when it is handled, moving hazardous materials could release tiny particles into the atmosphere. Avoid drilling or cutting into asbestos-containing materials. You should verify the material for asbestos before you disturb it.

How to tell the difference between cellulose and asbestos insulation

After being exposed to health hazards, asbestos was slowly replaced by other materials. Unfortunately, asbestos can still be found in some homes.

Dry cellulose is a safer option to asbestos. Loose-fill insulation, a type dry cellulose that's blown into walls cavities and attics to increase the building's fire-resistant and insulating properties, is one example.

There are many types of cellulose insulation. However, most are made from a mixture of different materials. A cellulose mixture may include newspaper, straw and hemp. It is very similar to asbestos insulation.

An asbestos awareness class is recommended for anyone at risk. Asbestos awareness courses explain the most common materials that may contain asbestos. Once you have identified a material that could contain asbestos, it is necessary to test the material for asbestos.

You will need additional training to assist with the removal process. To verify the presence of asbestos, a licensed assessor is needed. The material must be removed by a licensed asbestos remover.

How to Test for Asbestos

Asbestos is difficult to identify purely by its appearance. Therefore, testing is required in order to confirm the presence of asbestos. It is important to know the types most likely to have asbestos. An asbestos testing kit can be used to test the material.

To test for asbestos, you must send a sample of the material to an accredited laboratory. To confirm the presence, scientific testing is necessary. Amateur renovators and homeowners should hire a licensed asbestos assessor or professional testing company to conduct the testing.

An accredited assessor can inspect the property and give a report. After the material has been removed, the assessor will test the samples and monitor the air for asbestos fibres.

You can limit your exposure by using an outside source of testing. If asbestos is found in the material, follow the Work Health and Safety Act (WHS Act) requirements to remove it.

To remove friable asbestos or more than 10 square meters of non-friable asbestos, a licensed asbestos removalist must be licensed. Non-friable asbestos is made of bonded materials, which are less likely to separate and release dust particles if disturbed. Materials containing friable asbestos can be crushed easily, creating a greater health risk.


From the 1930s to the 1980s asbestos was used extensively in Australian homes. It was banned in Australia in 2003.

Australia banned asbestos in Australia. It was quickly replaced with cellulose and other less harmful materials. Dry cellulose is very similar to asbestos and can be difficult to detect. It is important to have asbestos-containing material tested before you disturb it.

A qualified asbestos assessor will complete the assessment and testing. An asbestos assessor can conduct the testing and assessment. Take an asbestos removal course to learn more about asbestos removal.

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