What is asbestos?

Asbestos is the generic term for a number of naturally occurring fibrous silicate minerals.

Asbestos was widely used in building materials up until the late 1980’s.

The main types of asbestos that were used in asbestos products include:

  • Chrysotile (white asbestos)
  • Amosite (brown asbestos)
  • Crocidolite (blue asbestos).
What are the possible health effects from asbestos?

Asbestos can cause health effects if the fibres are inhaled into the lungs.

Possible health effects include:

  • Asbestosis (progressive scarring of the lungs that impairs breathing)
  • Lung cancer
  • Mesothelioma (a cancer that affects the outer lining of the lungs and abdominal cavity).
How is exposure to asbestos likely to occur?

Exposure to asbestos fibres is likely to occur when material containing asbestos is broken, starts to deteriorate, or is handled in a way that causes the fibres to become airborne.

This generally occurs when people are unaware of the hazards and do not take appropriate precautions.

How do I know if my house contains asbestos?

As a guide, houses that were built: 

  • Before the mid-1980’s are highly likely to contain asbestos 
  • Between the miid-1980’s and 1990 may contain asbestos 
  • After 1990 are unlikely to contain asbestos.

If you are not sure if a material contains asbestos, it is best to play it safe and assume that it does.

To identify whether a material contains asbestos, you should contact an occupational hygienist to get the material tested.

What types of materials contain asbestos?

Materials containing asbestos include: 

  • Asbestos-cement sheeting (ie. fibro) used as internal wall and ceiling linings in wet areas, flooring in wet areas, external wall cladding, roofing, eaves linings and fencing 
  • Asbestos-cement guttering, downpipes, drainage pipes and flues 
  • Sprayed asbestos for fire protection, thermal and acoustic insulation 
  • Lagging for pipes, boilers and other equipment 
  • Fire-rated doors and fire-rated boards
  • Backing for electrical switchboards 
  • Tile cements, caulking and spackling compounds 
  • Vinyl floor tiles

Asbestos fibres have also been found in carpet underlay made from recycled hessian bags used to transport asbestos from mines.

Do I need to be concerned if my house contains asbestos?

The fact that your house contains asbestos does not mean that your health is at risk. Asbestos materials that are in a bonded form and are in good repair and left undisturbed do not pose a risk to health.

Material which is damaged or weathered to the point that it is structurally unsound should be replaced.

Do I need a license or permit to carry out asbestos work?

SafeWork NSW licenses asbestos removal contractors under the Work Health and Safety Regulation 2017.

All work involving friable asbestos must be carried out by a Class A licensed asbestos removal contractor.

All work involving more than 10 square metres of non-friable (bonded) asbestos material must be carried out by a Class B licensed asbestos removal contractor.

Friable asbestos means material that is in a powder form or that can be crumbled, pulverised or reduced to a powder by hand pressure when dry and contains asbestos. Examples of friable asbestos materials include pipe lagging, limpet, fire doors, extensive fire damage, gaskets and fibre bundles in soil.

Non-friable (bonded) asbestos means material containing asbestos that is not friable asbestos, including material containing asbestos fibres reinforced with a bonding compound. Examples of non-friable asbestos materials include roof sheeting, internal and external wall sheeting and vinyl floor tiles in good condition.

To find a licensed asbestos removal contractor, visit the Service NSW | Verify.license.

What precautions should I take when carrying out asbestos work?

Council recommends that householder’s employ a suitably licensed contractor for all asbestos work.

However, where a householder chooses to carry out asbestos work themselves they need to ensure that it is carried out safely. 

How should I dispose of asbestos waste?

Under the Protection of the Environment Operations (Waste) Regulation 2014, all bonded asbestos waste must be securely packaged and be transported to a landfill facility licensed to receive that waste.

For further information about disposing of asbestos waste see Safely disposing of asbestos waste.

The re-use or asbestos waste is prohibited.

Complaints about unsafe handling of asbestos

To report a contractor handling asbestos in an unsafe manner contact SafeWork NSW on Tel: 131 050.

If you are concerned about a householder handling asbestos in an unsafe manner contact Council’s Customer Service Centre on 9952 8222.

Further Information

Asbestos - A guide for householders and the general public.