If your home has an asbestos roof, should you be worried? Many homes in south-east Queensland built before 1983 are topped with corrugated asbestos roofs. In this article, we explore when is asbestos roofing harmful, asbestos roof health hazards and the hazards of ignoring asbestos in your roof. Finally, we offer advice on how to ensure your asbestos removal procedure is with the utmost care and safety.
Is Asbestos Roofing Harmful?
Yes, asbestos roofing can be dangerous if the asbestos roof sheeting is moved or disturbed. Why? When the tiny particles of asbestos become airborne, they are easily inhaled and can become lodged in the lungs, where they may develop into a disease. For this reason, asbestos is widely regarded as a silent killer and has been banned from use in Queensland since 2003.
What is Asbestos?
Asbestos is a group of naturally-occurring silicate minerals, made of soft, flexible fibres that take on a fluffy consistency when pulled. Resistant to heat, electricity and corrosion, asbestos was traditionally used to reinforce and add strength to cement, plastic and roofing materials.
Corrugated asbestos roofs are a familiar sight in south-east Queensland. Due to its superior strength, thermal qualities and fire retardancy, asbestos was widely used in roofing and insulation for Australian homes until the 1980s.
Dangers of Asbestos Roofing Sheets
Research shows that undisturbed asbestos roofs in good condition typically do not pose a health risk if the asbestos fibres remain bound in solid cement. Asbestos roof sheets become more of a hazard over time, becoming brittle and deteriorating with exposure to the sun, rain and hailstorms. If your asbestos roof is damaged, crumbling or disturbed by fire, breaking, cutting, drilling or sanding, the asbestos fibres may become airborne and dangerous. The more weathered your roof becomes, the more significant the health risk.
Asbestos Roof Health Hazards
Unfortunately, asbestos fibres are microscopic. They cannot be seen, smelled or tasted. If a person ingests asbestos dust, the fibres will become permanently trapped in the body, triggering inflammation, scarring and causing genetic damage to the body’s cells.
Asbestos is known to cause fatal diseases such as asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma. The symptoms of these diseases do not usually appear until about 20 to 30 years after first exposure. Science is yet to identify a way to reverse the cellular damage caused by asbestos.
While no amount of asbestos can be considered safe, asbestos is most dangerous when a person is exposed to a strong concentration or exposed to moderate amounts on a regular basis for a long time.
For most people with asbestos roofs, the risk of damage to your health is low. However, you may feel safer if you take a proactive approach to replace your old asbestos roof, to prevent the fibres from becoming airborne in the future.
Asbestos Roof: Other Considerations
Other than health risks, there are other reasons you might want to remove your asbestos roof. For example, asbestos roofing can make it difficult to sell or insure your property. Asbestos roofs can even make home insurance more costly.
Replacing your asbestos roof sooner rather than later provides peace of mind and minimises your risk of health complications. By being proactive now, you avoid the potential hassle of replacing your roof if removal becomes compulsory.
Asbestos Removal Procedure: Removing An Asbestos Roof
Asbestos roof removal and replacement is a complex and delicate procedure that requires professional expertise. Above all, your roofing contractor should be licensed to perform this work. The team at Strongguard has the right tools, knowledge, experience and licences to remove your asbestos roof safely.
Here are the steps of our asbestos removal procedure:
Step #1 Asbestos Roof Removal
To avoid disturbing the asbestos or releasing harmful asbestos dust, we remove each asbestos sheet with extreme care and consideration. Before we start, we thoroughly wet down the roofing sheet with a solution of polyvinyl acetate (PVA). We pull out any nails in your roof to help remove the sheeting with minimal breakage and lower each sheet by hand individually to the ground. For high set homes, we use a mechanical lift to assist.
We lightly spray your asbestos sheet with a 1:10 polyvinyl acetate (PVA) on the go. Our aim is to keep the asbestos wet until it is packaged for transport.
Once your asbestos roofing sheets have been safely removed, we give your ceiling a thorough clean using industrial hazardous vacuum cleaners designed for asbestos removal. Finally, we spray a PVA solution on your ceiling to seal the surface.
Step #2 Asbestos Roof Disposal
To guarantee we are disposing of asbestos in a safe and lawful way, we stack your asbestos sheets and wrap them tightly in two layers of thick, heavy-duty plastic to keep them sealed and protect your family.
Next, we will contact a licensed asbestos transporter to deliver your asbestos roofing sheets to an asbestos disposal facility. All asbestos that we remove is disposed of responsibly in the safest way possible.
Step #3 Third-Party Clearance and Roof Installation
To certify your roof is completely asbestos-free, we arrange a third party inspection. When this is complete, we will provide you with a copy of the report.
By this stage, we are ready for the roof installation. Before this commences, we will check and re-screw existing timber battens. Finally, we will install your new roof with scribed capping, valleys, flashings and fastenings. Your old asbestos roof will be replaced with a safe, modern metal roof from COLORBOND®, ZINCALUME® or COLORBOND® Ultra. A new metal roof is safer, more aesthetically pleasing and more durable than an asbestos roof.