The history of asbestos in Australian homes

The dangers of asbestos are well documented, and in today’s building industry, the use of asbestos products is not even considered. But when it first came on the market, people simply didn’t know of the dangers; and these products were used regularly for decades in homes and businesses across Australia.

 

A “revolutionary new product”

The post-WW1 era in Australia saw a housing boom following an increase in population; and there became a need for building materials that were easy to manufacture, quick to install, and user-friendly.

Asbestos cement sheeting, also known as “fibro”, was the ideal product for building homes that needed to be erected quickly and cheaply. The flat boards were used for exterior and interior walling, while corrugated boards were used for roofing and fencing.

At the time, fibro was a revolutionary new product. It was durable, fire-proof, easy to transport and suited the hot climates we have in Australia. It was low-cost, and being so strong and resilient, it meant that even the home handy-man could use it for his own renovations. Soon there was a fibro-boom! Owner builders, country builders and those wanting holiday houses or shacks were happy to build in fibro; and those with existing homes took to renovating and using fibro to build extensions and verandahs.

Moving forward two decades, and the second world war then follows with a massive housing boom; and from 1945 – 1970, fibro houses were being built regularly. By the mid-1960’s, fibro was so popular it featured in almost 20% of all housing in Australia.

During the 1970s and 80s, homes began to change and the introduction of the brick and tile house became more and more desirable. However fences were still built from asbestos, and asbestos was still often used within the home in ceilings, walls and eaves.

Not all states in Australia embraced the fibro-house boom equally; and fibro houses were not built in all locations either. They were most popular in NSW, WA and the NT, yet fibro was not as popular in VIC, QLD, SA and Tasmania.  Different suburbs also had differing numbers of fibro housing – because it was a “cheap” option, it was commonly used by State housing authorities to build large numbers of inexpensive dwellings, while in more wealthier suburbs, fibro was restricted to sheds and fences.

In the mid 1980’s, Australia’s relationship with fibro took a downward turn following the discovery of the deadly asbestosis disease. Fibro ceased to be manufactured, and while some builders still used the product because of existing stock, from the 1990’s it was off the market.

 

Modern problems with fibro

Post 1990, and continuing decades later to modern day, asbestos can still prove a danger in the home. Those with asbestos in their homes are now finding that as it ages, the sheeting may become frayed or broken; and this I where it becomes dangerous. Similarly for those who are renovating older homes – disturbing the old sheeting through cleaning, painting or removal, is causing it to break, and there is a risk of fibres being released.

The only solution to asbestos in the home is to have it safely removed by a licensed contractor.

 

AARCO removal process

AARCO are licensed to remove and dispose of asbestos products. Their asbestos removal process gives customers peace of mind in knowing their homes or businesses are safe.  A thorough site analysis first identifies hazards, and they then devise a plan to safely, quickly and effectively remove the asbestos. They can also conduct air monitoring and land and soil testing. At the completion of the job, they provide documentation to vouch for the complete removal of asbestos from the site.

For an inspection, or to find out more information on asbestos removal from your home, contact AARCO on (08) 6406 2020 or email sales@aarco.com.au