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Fibrous heat seals illegally imported to Australia provoke questions in SA

Despite being prohibited imports in Australia, materials containing fibre are still being found at the border. Asbestos fibres have been found in equipment imported to the Nyrstar Smelter at Port Pirie, South Australia. The fibres were found in the sealant on heat exchanger tubes imported from China.

It was also revealed that an Adelaide contractor used building products imported from China that has fibrous materials. The materials, which had been certified as fibre-free, were used in flooring on the Seaford rail line. John Rau, the Industrial relations minister, described these discoveries as “appalling”. Safe work SA stated that it was the fourth report of fibrous materials found in SA in recent months. More detailed information here.

Heat seals, like the one found at Port Pirie, are often used for insulation purposes and can be found in many appliances such as refrigerators and washing machines. In many types of equipment, when two parts are connected by a gasket, that gasket needs to be insulated to prevent any heat transfer generated by two moving parts. Until the early 1970s, fibrous sealants were often made from this material since this material had many properties that lent itself well to the production of fibrous sealants.

In addition to being inexpensive, this fibre was easily formed and compressed into many different shapes and sizes. The densely packed fibres gave it incredible durability and strength, along with excellent insulating properties against heat.

A brief history of fibrous materials in Adelaide, South Australia

Asbestos is a mineral fibre that can only be identified using a microscope. Many people use this term in reference to this microscopic fibre though there are different fibre types. The fibre was used in the production of building materials like ducts and pipes in the past.

South Australia has produced large quantities of asbestos-containing material (ACM). The earliest recorded production and mining was from deposits near Robertstown. Approximately, 1000 tons of blue fibres (crocidolite) were mined in the Robertstown-Truro-Lyndoch area, which is 50-120 km north of Adelaide. It’s unlikely that these deposits will ever work again.

ACM products, including heat sealants, were in use in South Australia even in the late 1990s. Before they were banned, fibrous heat sealants were used for over 200 years in residential, public, industrial and commercial buildings. This means that there are many buildings in Australia that contain harmful fibrous sealants. Heat sealants are found in different products including fireproofing, thermal insulation, and electrical insulation.

Types of heat seals found in Adelaide

Heat sealants that contain fibres are categorized into tightly bound products and loosely-bound products  ( In the mid-1970s, the use of fibrous heat sealants was banned for many manufacturing applications; it is allowed to be used, however, in gaskets or other materials in which the fibre is tightly bound. Unfortunately, it is not possible to tell either a heat seal contains tightly bound or loosely bound fibres.

Tightly bound products

Fibrous seals that have bonded fibres are considered less risky when compared to those with loosely bound fibres. They are also easier to handle. However, due to degradation, materials with firmly bound fibres can start releasing them. This is why they should be handled carefully during the removal process.

Firmly bound fibres can also be found in some insulating boards that are used in sound and heat insulation and for fire protection purposes. They can be commonly located in industrial, residential and commercial settings in Australia. They are used in electrical panels, ceiling tiles, wall linings and circuit boards. Their fibres content ranges between 20 and 45 percent.

Loosely-bound products

Heat sealants that contain loosely bound fibre are also called friable materials or products. They were mostly used in commercial and industrial settings for sound and fireproofing as well as general insulation. Today, glass fibres are used in place of ACM fibre.

Heat seals containing loose fibres are rarely found in domestic heaters, water heating systems and old stoves. However, loosely bound products can have up to 100 percent fibres. Since fibres in them are loose, they tend to produce dust with minimal pressure application. This makes them very dangerous since loose fibres become airborne with ease. As such, ACM removal Adelaide must be done by licensed removal experts only.

Major risks from fibrous heat seals

Airborne fibres cause over 5000 deaths every year. When young people have routine exposure to fibres, their risk of developing ACM-related ailments is increased. Generally, the major health risks that are associated with fibres exposure include:

Mesothelioma is thought as the most lethal disease compared to other diseases caused by fibrous materials. Although the usage of ACM was banned since December 2003, a steady number of people are still affected by mesothelioma. It is increasing at an alarming rate in Australia, including in South Australia. The incidence of mesothelioma was increasing almost eight times from 1945 until 2008 (Picture 1). It is believed that the incidence of mesothelioma will peak sometime between 2015 and 2020.

Figure 2. Mesothelioma incidence between 1945 until 2008 (adapted from


It is a progressive disease that inhibits lung functions. In 2011, there were 178 deaths caused by this diseases. This desease develops when airborne fibres are inhaled and accumulate in the lungs to form scar tissue. Over many years, the scar tissue hardens and affects the lungs elasticity, thus inhibiting its functions. The scar tissue also inhibits oxygen transport to the lungs. As a consequence, it will increase the difficulty in breathing.

This kind of disease usually appears 10-20 years after high fibres exposure. Smoking can also increase the likelihood of complications and the risk of death from asbestosis. There is no current cure for it since lungs damage is irreversible. Treatments such as oxygen therapy can manage the symptoms of asbestosis and increasing patient’s quality of life.

Asbestos Removal and Testing in Adelaide

How to identify fibrous heat sealants in your building

It is not easy to determine if any material that was used to construct your building has fibrous heat sealants by looking at it. Although the majority of the buildings that were constructed before the 1980s are likely to have it, the only way to be sure is by having your property inspected professionally.

It is important to note that ACM removal should be done before general maintenance and renovation. If you want to replace or repair heat seals, it is best to treat them as if they contain fibre and proceed with extra caution. Otherwise, you will expose yourself and others to a serious health risk especially if the building has materials with loose products.

We prompt and reliable services for fibrous material testing and removal in Adelaide

Asbestos removal Adelaide is a profession that requires skills and experience. Asbestos Watch Adelaide, as an endorsement company for trusted asbestos removal, testing, roof removal and management plan contractors, offers professional services for commercial, industrial and domestic properties owners in the greater Adelaide region. If you suspect that you have ACM in your building, get in touch with us today.

Before we remove fibrous sealants in your building, our endorsed contractors will conduct an extensive survey, sampling, and testing Adelaide in your property. Our survey and testing Adelaide cover textured coatings, insulation boards and roof sheets among other areas. They focus on ensuring that fibrous heat seals are removed from your building safely and completely. Whether it is your office, business premises or home, they have the necessary skills, experience, and equipment to remove heat seals safely and comprehensively.

Once you call us, our approved members respond promptly by dispatching a highly trained and experienced operative and management team. Thier team of specialist will analyze ACM status in your building to come up with the most appropriate testing Adelaide procedures. The package covers removal, transfer, and disposal of ACMs in a safe and professional manner.

Extensive services provided by our endorsed contractors

Our contractors offer a broad range of services that are tailored to meet your needs. Upon a request, their team of specialists will come to your house or workplace and determine the existence of harmful heat seals within the building. Then, our contractors will determine what measures need to be taken next. Our professionals aim to deliver high-quality and competitive services to exceed your expectations. Our endorsed contractors can provide you with extensive services as follows:

  • Asbestos removal – a comprehensive service to remove ACMs from your property. Starting from removing fibres, transportation, and dispose of hazardous materials in a legal waste facility
  • Asbestos testing – Sample collection and testing via an accredited laboratory
  • Management plan – Comprehensive risk assessment for developing a detailed management plan Adelaide. If required, they can also check and update your register document.
  • Roof removal – Removing roofing and siding products from damaged roofing shingles
  • Air monitoring – Air quality inspection during and after removal process
  • Consultant – Reliable and competent consultancy services for all ACM-related projects. Our qualified assessors can also give fibre awareness training in your workplace.
  • Demolition survey – Extensive survey before a refurbishment and demolition work
  • Soil remediation – Inspection of contaminated soil and remediation services
  • Emergency repair – Emergency services after an incident and emergencies such as storm and bushfires

If you suspected that fibrous sealants might present in your house or workplace, get in touch with us today! We can connect you with qualified contractors to handle your entire ACM-related problems within residential, commercial, and government settings. Our team of professionals determined to deliver the best services in identifying and removing fibrous materials from your building- prompt and safe!

Our approved members have adequate trainings and the right certification for a safe handling of fibrous materials. They strive to handle all the jobs safely and providing high quality services at competitive costs. Our team of professionals determined to deliver the best services in identifying and removing fibrous materials from your building- prompt and safe!

There are no projects that are too difficult to be handled by our team. We put customer satisfaction, along with health and safety, as our biggest priority.

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Frequently Asked Question (FAQ)

The safest way to handle fibre is by leaving the material to remain undisturbed. Never: break, drill, hammer, cut, saw, damage or move any of your dangerous materials. Contact a professional to come and check the material.

No, it's not safe to remove any ACM yourself. The fibrous material should always be performed by a certified and professional removalist.

The expense of fibrous-material testing varies relying upon the amount of sample tested and what methods applied in the process. The average cost to remove asbestos is $50 psqm.

Gathering the samples by yourself is a risky procedure, so contact a licensed and qualified contractor for the job. It will protect you from the possibility of getting the fibers exposure.

Some ACM products are known to have the long and durable lifespan. The bonded ACM is a low-risk material and if it's in good condition, it requires a less regular review than the code of practice’s recommended which is 12 months. The decision must be supported by a written recommendation from an expert.

Yes. Even though you think your building does not contain any fibrous materials, according to the Rule 1403 (d)(1)(A), it requires an asbestos survey report, regardless of the structure age, prior to demolition to determine and confirm the absence or presence of the ACM.

The answer is yes. All the asbestos materials within your building need to be removed before conducting any demolition work. It is to minimize the opportunity of the fiber goes airborne.

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