FAQ – Is my asbestos roof safe and what can I do about it?

asbestos super six roof sheeting
asbestos super six roof sheeting

There are hundreds of thousands of asbestos cement roofs in Sydney – and even more sources of asbestos in wall and eaves linings and other not so obvious products.

Whilst there is no doubt that asbestos fibres are not good for your health, is it safe to have an asbestos cement roof over your house?

The pragmatic answer to this question is simply this: Your neighbour(s) may have asbestos roofs; you may live near an industrial area where there are many hectares of asbestos roofs and there may be other asbestos products that we do not know about that is close by. The way that asbestos fibres can affect your health – it does not really matter if you actually live under an asbestos roof or not.

The difference in the level of exposure whether you have an asbestos roof or not is virtually ZERO.

The trick is not to try to disturb or do anything with the asbestos roof yourself. Then you are as safe as everyone else in Sydney!

If you are interested in getting more information on asbestos dangers and asbestos roofs, pop over to my latest blog about the dangers of asbestos roofs in Sydney.

 

Or just watch the video below which gives a short story of the dangers of an asbestos roof in Western Sydney and what you can do about it.

10 Responses to "FAQ – Is my asbestos roof safe and what can I do about it?"
  1. Thanks for your informative video. I run a gutter vacuuming business in Melbourne. I occasionally get asked to clean the gutters of properties with these roofs. I imagine the gutters are full of asbestos fibers. I worked as a teenager for a comapny in Sydney that removed these roofs from factories. Luckily only for 3-4 months and being a smoker have not been affected by this. Would like to get your opinion on the danger of working with the debris in gutters. I would approach the job by wetting everything down first and sucking out the debris wet. Still is it legal to dump the debris in a garbage bin in a plastic bag? Your good advice would be appreciated. Regards
    Jeff

    • Hi Jeff,
      I am no asbestos expert.
      I just find as much information as I can – so that I can separate fact from fiction.
      As far as I can figure, wet fibres cannot fly. So, your technique of wetting down – then wet vacuuming is as good a technique as you can use.
      On the subject of disposal (this is Sydney and not Melbourne), I will tell you a true story….

      …Several years ago, I booked an asbestos roof sheeting disposal at an approved disposal tip in Sydney. It had to be done in a small window of time in the afternoon – I was told.
      Upon arrival, I got weighed and was directed to the general household disposal area of the tip.
      An excavator had just dug a trench in the fill area that was created by the morning truckloads of household garbage. I was directed to tip my load into the trench. I assume that they tipped the next mornings garbage over the same trench ( … little wonder that asbestos tipping was only done in the afternoons).

      …Recently, I took another load to the same disposal tip. I was directed to the same area again – except this time, there was no trench. “tip it any where you like…” was the general direction from the dozer operator.

      To answer your disposal question… If you get caught dumping asbestos debris (contained in a plastic bag) in a garbage bin – you would be on the WRONG side of the law.
      But the law can be an ass if you know how the asbestos is treated at the ‘asbestos tip’….

      All the best.

      Jack

  2. Hi,
    The first floor of my house has large portion of it covered by asbestos-cement – it has been so for a few decades now. The roof was in excellent condition for long but over the past few months there were a few incidents of tree branches falling on the roof during heavy winds, causing small portions of the roof on the edges to break off. Since these breakages have caused the cross-section of the sheet to be exposed directly to air (although only on the roof edge), I am concerned about asbestos fibers polluting the air gradually. Asbestos is not strictly banned in my country (I am not a resident of Australia) and there are hardly any certified service agencies who can dismantle asbestos safely from residential areas. I would like to know if there are insulation or abatement procedures that can safely shield off the asbestos-cement roof from the air and can be carried out even by regular house construction and repair agencies. Are there any special types of paints, roofing adhesives or plastering materials that can be used as to safely and effectively shield off asbestos in the roof from air? Any advice in this regard would be highly appreciated!

    • Hi,
      To understand asbestos cement products, imagine that it is just like concrete….. but instead of stone and sand held together by the cement, it is asbestos fibres.
      If you break a lump of concrete, bits of sand, cement and maybe stone will ‘peel’ off from the broken edge. The broken edge virtually immediately becomes stable. No fresh sand, cement or stones ‘break free’.

      The same with an asbestos cement product. Once broken, the free edge becomes stable again. There is no need to do anything else to cover this edge.

      Hope this helps.

      Jack

      • Hi Jack,
        Thanks for your reply! While it is a bit reassuring to know that the broken edge doesn’t continuously leak out hazardous fibers, I am still worried about the small amount of these fibers that may leach out slowly over a long period of time. After much search, I managed to find a certified agency that has professionals specializing in asbestos removal in my country – they do not offer roof shielding services, only roof removal.

        However, due to various non-financial constraints, I prefer to not remove the asbestos-cement roof at present but get it shielded if that can be done safely, even if it means some extra cost. Where can I find information on reliable shielding procedures for asbestos-cement roofs? Will coating the roof with some high quality paint or roof sealing material once a few years be a good safeguard against asbestos fiber leakage? Are there any international agencies or agencies of repute (like something under the aegis of WHO) that provides guidelines or disseminates information in this regard?

  3. Hi,
    Will coating an asbestos-cement roof with a high-quality paint or sealing material like silicone paint help minimize the release of asbestos fibers into air? If so, what type of paint should be applied? Will covering the interior of the roof with wallpaper be a good idea? Are there any accredited international agencies (like those affiliated to WHO or following WHO norms) that provide guidelines or disseminate information in this regard?

    P.S.: Sorry for the flurry of questions. Since asbestos ban is not enforced in my country of residence, I am unable to find any local agencies that can help in this regard

  4. Mr Yuen,Thanks for such useful technical information.
    How about drinking water from a roofing made with asbestos tiles?Would the asbestos fibres get absorbed into the blood and end up in the lungs leading to asbestosis lung disease and eventually mesothelioma?

    • Hi Dr,
      I am not a medical specialist – I can say that I know more about roofs than medicine.
      From my “layman” perspective, fibres are breathed into the lungs.
      If fibres go in via the mouth, then it goes into a different system (and hopefully gets expelled because it has no nutritional value to the body). There should be little chance of any fibres migrating from the digestive system to the respiratory system.
      I am not aware of any history of medical problems associated with asbestos fibres in the digestive system.

      Jack

    • Asbestos workers have a higher incidence of bladder cancer. Presumably from ingesting the fibres. So I’d avoid it.

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