You probably already know that many Australian homes contain asbestos in roofs and walls. But you might not realise there's another place in the home where asbestos is commonly found: right under your feet.
Asbestos was used in various types of floor covering, especially from the 1960s to the 1980s. The most common use of asbestos was in the lining for vinyl sheets and floor tiles (also known as "lino" or "linoleum"). Asbestos was used to make the lino more durable.
Asbestos is also sometimes found in carpet underlay, which was often made from hessian bags that had been used to transport asbestos.
Asbestos in lino is a particular concern for a number of reasons:
- It couldn't be more highly concentrated: the lining is 100% chrysotile asbestos.
- It's easy to accidentally breathe in: the action of ripping up lino releases asbestos fibres into the air.
- Because ripping up lino is easy and feels satisfying, home renovators will often do it themselves, without considering the risks of asbestos.
Protect your family from potential asbestos risks
So what should you do to protect your family from possible breathing in asbestos fibres when you're removing old lino or carpet?
Basically, you have two options. The first is to treat the material as if it contains asbestos and have it removed by a professional asbestos removalist. (If you're in Sydney or NSW, Airsafe can recommend a reliable asbestos removal contractor.)
The second option - the one we would recommend - is to remove a small, inconspicuous sample and send it to Airsafe for testing. Find out how to collect a sample and get it tested.
Airsafe can get you an answer very quickly - the same day if you're in a hurry! Once you've had your sample tested, you'll know whether it's safe to remove the lino yourself, or whether you need to get an asbestos removal contractor to do it.
Just remember: tempting as it might be to just start ripping up that grotty old lino, a little bit of patience can protect your family from a potentially big risk.