Debunking 7 Myths About Asbestos

It’s no secret that asbestos exposure is harmful to our health – and even potentially deadly. However, although asbestos has been recognised as a dangerous substance, there seems to be a lack of information about its nature. There are many myths currently surrounding asbestos, making it all the more mysterious. While the element of mystery may be fascinating, misinformation about asbestos can (in some cases) encourage exposure to it.

As professionals who specialise in environmental site assessments, we are here to clear up some of these popular myths – and hopefully help you stay safe against asbestos exposure.


Myth 1: You need to come into contact with asbestos to be affected by it

You can still be at risk of asbestos exposure even if you’ve never worked with it. Even something as seemingly low-risk as coming home with asbestos dust on your clothing is enough to trigger an incurable disease like mesothelioma. Asbestos is not just present in the construction industry, either; plumbers, electricians and carpenters all make up a large proportion of those who suffer from fatal asbestos-related diseases.


Myth 2: Inhaling a single asbestos fibre is enough to cause an illness

Although inhaling asbestos fibres is not ideal, it will not cause an illness immediately. Diseases like mesothelioma develop due to asbestos exposure over a number of years. In fact, it is exposure over a long period of time that proves the deadliest – even if it is a low level of exposure.


Myth 3: Cleaning asbestos is as simple as vacuuming the carpet

Vacuuming or hosing asbestos dust is possibly the most effective way to disperse it – not to clean it up! Unless you have a HEPA vacuum cleaner that is asbestos-approved, it is best not to interfere with the contamination without a professional. Similarly, hosing down the dust will just cause the asbestos fibres to spread into fine cracks and crevices. This makes it more difficult to clean up in the long run.


Myth 4: Asbestos isn’t a problem anymore in Australia

While there is more awareness about the dangers of asbestos nowadays, its presence still remains in many residential, commercial and public buildings (and even in vehicles and equipment!). In fact, it has been estimated that close to 5 million homes in Australia – which amounts to around 1 in 2 homes in the country – still contain materials or products with asbestos in them.


Myth 5: Crayons are unsafe because they contain asbestos

Half of this statement is not a myth – certain crayon brands do contain tiny amounts of asbestos. However, because the fibres are fully bound within the crayon wax, they are not deemed to be a risk to those who use (or even ingest) the crayons.

In Australia, it is illegal to import or supply products for general use that contain asbestos. This means that crayons containing asbestos – although they are low-risk – must be returned to a licensed asbestos disposal facility.


Myth 6: There is a type of asbestos that is safe to work with

Many people believe that white asbestos is the ‘safe’ type of asbestos. While it is true that white (chrysotile) asbestos is considered to be less hazardous than blue or brown asbestos, it is still extremely dangerous. It is still considered a carcinogen, and it has even been proven that most people who die from an asbestos-related disease have been exposed to white asbestos.


Myth 7: You don’t need a qualification or experience to remove asbestos

It is actually illegal for those who are unlicensed to remove friable (loose) asbestos. This is because friable asbestos is extremely fragile, and it is easy to worsen the contamination by moving it without the right equipment.

However, in Victoria, under the Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2007, it is possible to remove up to 10 square metres of non-friable (bound) asbestos without a license. It should be noted that there are removal, packaging and disposal rules and regulations that need to be observed when doing so.


Environmental site assessments in Melbourne

Asbestos is an extremely delicate substance that can easily contaminate its surroundings if it is not handled with professional care. When it comes to protecting the health of yourself and others, it pays to stay safe and trust in those who have the right equipment to manage and prevent any environmental risks involved.

Alpha Environmental is dedicated to providing safe and reliable environmental site assessments in and around Melbourne. We specialise in detecting, testing, managing and removing asbestos from all kinds of sites – from demolitions to existing workplaces. Our environmental site assessments also cover other key environmental and occupational hygiene issues (such as groundwater, soil and mould).

If you would like to find out more about our environmental site assessments, please do not hesitate to get in touch today on 1300 039 181.