Get More Information About Asbestos
Access more information about asbestos and related regulations here in our resources section.
List of asbestos resources:
- What is asbestos?
- Types of asbestos
- Why is asbestos dangerous?
- Cases related to asbestos in Brisbane
- Products containing asbestos
- Where asbestos can be found in a building
- Regulations governing asbestos in Australia
- What should I do if I find asbestos on my property?
- Asbestos disposal
- Government agencies that deal with asbestos
What is Asbestos?
Asbestos refers to a group of six types of silicate minerals that occur naturally in the environment as bundles of fibres that can be separated into thin, durable threads for use in industrial and commercial applications. For much of the 20th century, asbestos was viewed as the “miracle mineral” due to its various desirable properties. Physical characteristics of asbestos that made it widely used in numerous applications are:
- Thermal stability
- Chemical resistance
- Strength under pressure
- Water resistance
- Suitability for reinforcing and weaving
- Electrical resistance
In Australia, asbestos was commonly used in building materials between the 1940s and the late 1980s. Consequently, many buildings throughout Australia built between this period still contain asbestos until today.
Types of Asbestos
The three types of asbestos that have found significant commercial and industrial uses are:
Asbestos-containing materials fall into two broad categories:
Friable is used to refer to asbestos-containing materials that is more prone to damage and can be easily reduced to powder when crushed by hand when dry. When being disturbed or damaged, friable asbestos-containing materials can release inhalable asbestos fibres into the air and contaminate the environment. Friable asbestos contains more than 1% asbestos by weight. Friable asbestos-containing materials must only be removed by an A-class licensed asbestos removalist.
Non-friable or bonded asbestos is used to refer to asbestos that is more resistant to damage and abrasion, so is likely to release hazardous fibres into the air. Non-friable asbestos-containing materials cannot be damaged by the human hand and often contain up to 15 per cent asbestos. They are mainly made from asbestos fibres together with a bonding compound (e.g. cement). A B-class licensed asbestos removalist is allowed to remove non-friable asbestos-containing materials.
Cases related to asbestos in Australia
Mishandling of asbestos material
Asbestos is a carcinogenic substance and threatens human health. Due to its nature, you need to handle asbestos materials with care. Mishandling of asbestos can cause it to release fibres at an accelerated pace, endanger your life and contaminate the environment.
For this reason, it’s important to keep your environment free from asbestos contamination.
According to the local regulations, here are a few steps you can do to minimise asbestos contamination:
- If you believe a home renovator, homeowner or owner-builder is unsafely handling, removing, or transporting asbestos material or a person has illegally dumped asbestos waste, contact your local council.
- If you believe a contractor, business or an occupant at a commercial premise, is unsafely handling, removing or transporting asbestos materials, contact the Department of Justice and the Attorney-General.
Roofing materials containing asbestos
Asbestos in roofing materials is one of the common issues that most property owners might have faced. This condition is worsened by the fact that some Australian cities have quite extreme weather patterns. Those cities have a humid subtropical climate, where natural disasters such as thunderstorms, large hail, torrential rain, and destructive winds become a normal part of their typical weather conditions.
Illegal asbestos dumping
Another major concern related to asbestos mishandling is illegal dumping. The government is concerned that some renovators and contractors are not handling and disposing of asbestos waste in a safe and lawful manner.
Every year, half a million dollars of ratepayers’ money is spent on cleaning up illegally dumped waste in Australia. Even more, money is spent on fixing infrastructure and natural areas impacted by illegal dumping.
Illegal dumping has some serious impacts, such as damaging infrastructure and the natural environment, decreasing property values, and causing chemical and physical pollution in the neighbourhoods and waterways.
Products containing asbestos
- Fibre Gaskets
- Vinyl products
- Asbestos sheets Fireproofing & prevention materials
- Electrical cloth & electrical panel partition
- Insulation material
- Floor backing & drywall taping compounds
- Ductwork connectors & flexible duct connectors
- Adhesives and gold bond adhesives
Where asbestos can be found in a building?
Asbestos was widely used in residential, commercial building and government properties throughout Australia. Many houses and buildings built before 1990 in Australia are highly likely to contain asbestos.
Up until the 1960s, 25% of all new housing was clad in asbestos cement in Australia. (Leigh J. etal. 2002, Malignant Mesothelioma in Australia, 1945-2000).
Regulations governing asbestos
On 31 December 2003, materials containing all forms of asbestos were no longer able to be sold, used, reused, manufactured, imported, supplied, stored, transported, installed or replaced in Australia (Safe Work Australia 2010b).
For that reason, it’s important to check and determine whether your property has asbestos or not. Before conducting any work on asbestos, check the local council website to learn more about this dangerous substance.
What should I do if I find asbestos on my property?
Asbestos materials that aren’t disturbed or damaged are not likely to pose a health risk. Often, the best thing to do is to leave the material alone if it is in good condition. An asbestos material that is in good condition and will not be disturbed will not release asbestos fibres.
Asbestos materials may release fibres when they are damaged, disturbed, repaired, removed improperly, torn, cut, sawed, sanded, scraped or drilled. Keep an eye on asbestos materials and visually check them over time for signs of damage or wear.
Transfer stations and Authorised Landfill sites for asbestos waste
Asbestos waste is classified as hazardous and must be disposed of properly. Before any asbestos removal or demolition work, you should identify which waste facility is licensed by the EPA for disposal of asbestos waste. Hazardous waste transfer stations can accept asbestos waste and then arrange to have it disposed of at an authorised landfill site.
For more information about the disposal of asbestos waste, contact the local city council.
Government agencies that deal with asbestos
Environment Protection Authority (EPA)
The main regulator of environment policies and issues in Australia. The purpose of this agency is to enhance the performance of the environment and waste management.