Asbestos advice for householders
Posted on December 20th, 2017

Ministry of Health of New Zealand responses to questions about asbestos in Canterbury.

Background

The workplace health and safety regulator, WorkSafe NZ, has been investigating the testing and management of asbestos during repair work carried out in homes in Canterbury following the earthquakes in 2010 and 2011.

Below are answers to some common questions about potential health risks for homeowners.

Questions and answers

Q1  What is asbestos and what are the different types?

Asbestos is a common term describing a variety of naturally occurring silicate minerals. It was a popular building material up until the 1990s because of its exceptional insulating, fire-resistant and reinforcing properties.

Left undisturbed, asbestos is safe – but if it is exposed or damaged, it can be harmful.

The most commonly mined forms of asbestos are chrysotile (white asbestos), crocidolite (blue asbestos) and amosite (brown asbestos).

Chrysotile asbestos is the type usually present in asbestos-containing materials in New Zealand houses.

Chrysotile fibres tend to break across the fibre, so become shorter and remain thicker than the crocidolite and amosite fibres.

The fibres of health significance are those that can be inhaled. Longer, thinner fibres are a greater risk to health as they are less easily removed by the body’s defences.

Q2  What is the health risk from exposure to asbestos?

Health risks from asbestos depend on a number of factors:

  • the amount of asbestos fibres in the air
  • how long your exposure lasts
  • how often you were exposed
  • the size of the asbestos fibres (they must be small enough to be breathed in)
  • the amount of time since your first exposure
  • the type of asbestos fibre.

People are more likely to experience asbestos-related diseases when they are exposed to higher concentrations of asbestos, are exposed frequently and over long periods of time.

The risk of developing asbestos-related diseases is very low for low-level short-term exposure in the home. This is because the risk of disease is directly related to the amount of asbestos and length of exposure. Short-term low-level exposure in the home is likely to pose negligible risk of disease.

Asbestos-related diseases generally occur in workers who have had heavy exposure over extended periods of time, such as people engaged in the manufacture of asbestos-containing material.

Q3  What happens when I am exposed to asbestos?

The main exposure to asbestos is from breathing in airborne asbestos fibres, some of which may get trapped in your lungs. Most fibres are removed from your lungs by the body’s defences. Levels of fibres in lung tissue build up over time, but some fibres, particularly chrysotile (white asbestos), can be removed with time.

If you swallow asbestos, nearly all of the fibres are excreted in the faeces. There is some evidence that ongoing exposure may increase the risk of gastrointestinal tumours and that short-term high levels of ingestion may lead to precursor lesions of bowel cancer. However these effects may be caused by something other than asbestos.

Asbestos fibres can penetrate into the skin but do not appear to pass through the skin into the blood.

Q4  Are children more susceptible to asbestos than adults?

There is no conclusive evidence that children are at greater risk of developing asbestos-related disease than adults.

Q5 What do I do if I have asbestos in my home?

The risk of developing asbestos-related diseases is extremely low for low-level short-term exposure in the home. This is because the risk of disease is directly related to the amount of asbestos and length of exposure. Short-term low-level exposure in the home is likely to pose negligible risk of disease.

Asbestos poses a risk if it is no longer adequately contained in the material it came in (such as due to damage, being cut or drilled into during building work, home maintenance or wear and tear). For this reason, the Ministry of Health advises homeowners not to undertake home maintenance on materials that may contain asbestos, or dispose of such materials themselves.

If you are worried about asbestos in your home talk to a health protection officer about what to do. You can find one at your local public health unit.

You can arrange to have your house tested for the presence of asbestos fibres. For a list of accredited laboratories, search on the keyword asbestos” on the IANZ website here: http://www.ianz.govt.nz/directory/

For a list of laboratories approved by the New Zealand Demolition and Asbestos Association (NZDAA) go here: http://www.demolition-asbestos.co.nz/wawcs0139831/members.html

Further information is available here: https://www.healthed.govt.nz/resource/removing-asbestos-home

Asbestos-related diseases generally occur in workers who have had heavy exposure over extended periods of time, such as people engaged in the manufacture of asbestos-containing material.

The highest risk of exposure to asbestos in the home is through home renovating, by cutting or drilling through asbestos-cement sheeting or sanding down asbestos-backed linoleum or tiles. Left undisturbed, these materials pose a negligible risk as long as they are in good condition and it is recommended that asbestos-containing material in good condition be left alone.

There is an ongoing, although low, risk of exposure to asbestos fibres in a home where there are damaged or deteriorating asbestos-containing insulation, walls, ceiling or floor tiles. The longer you are exposed to asbestos fibres in the air, and the higher the concentration of the exposure, the greater the risk of developing asbestos-related diseases later on in life.

Q6  How long is it before any health effect from asbestos exposure would occur?

Asbestos-related diseases take many years, usually decades, to develop. Symptoms developing within months of exposure are unlikely to be related to asbestos.

 

Read the Full Report

https://www.health.govt.nz/news-media/news-items/asbestos-advice-householders

One Response to “Asbestos advice for householders”

  1. Senerath Says:

    Good strategy. Attack asbestos from one hand, put in Kuruminya into tea using the other hand and expose yourself to hell.

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