5 Hazardous Materials Found in Heritage Homes Around Melbourne

Melbourne is a city filled with beautiful heritage homes that have a distinctive architectural style. These properties are highly valued for their old world charm and character but these elegant buildings are full of potential hazards. It’s no secret that building practices and materials have not always been as regulated as they are now, and there are still many houses in and around the city which have hazardous materials which pose a potential threat to inhabitants. In this article, we look at 5 hazardous building materials which can often be found in heritage homes.


Asbestos has been used as a building material since the late 19th century and it’s perhaps the most well known of the hazardous materials on this list. Between 1930 and 1983, almost every building in Australia was constructed using some sort of asbestos based material. Asbestos was used in everything from soundproofing to piping and is responsible for a whole host of deadly lung conditions. This material is only dangerous when the particles become airborne, so friable (crumbly) asbestos or bonded asbestos that has been damaged needs to be professionally removed.

Polychlorinater Biphenyls (PCB)

PCB  was used as insulating fluid in electrical transformers and capacitors between 1930 and 1970 in Australia. Older electrical systems are likely to contain some of this toxic irritant and it needs to be removed as soon as it is discovered as it has a number of decomposition bi-products that are hazardous. PCB has been linked with a wide range of health conditions ranging from birth defects to thyroid disorders.

Lead Containing Paint

Lead paint has been used for thousands of years and was popularly used in Australia up until 1997. Most houses built and painted before 1970 contain high levels of lead (sometimes exceeding 50%) either in the paint still on the walls or in the soil which has absorbed the lead residue. There are a number of serious health issues which stem from lead poisoning which range from nervous system damage through to stunted growth. Lead paint is most dangerous when it deteriorates and needs to be professionally removed.

Ozone Depleting Substances

Throughout the the 20th century, an ozone depleting agents were used in the construction industry. Halon and chlorofluorocarbons are two of the most common ozone depleting substances used and although these chemicals are non toxic to humans, they pose a significant threat to the environment.

Stored Hazardous Materials

Building apartments and homes on old industrial sites has become a major trend in Melbourne but these sites need to be carefully checked for underground waste disposal tanks and disused chemical storage areas. Onsite chemical storage and disposal is common on industrial sites to this day and if present, the chemicals need to be properly disposed of and the area neutralised before the site is fit for human habitation.

As professional environmental consultants, Alpha Environmental are well placed to advise you on potentially hazardous materials around your heritage home or business. To learn more about our services, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us by calling 9415 8002.