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Asbestos

Asbestos roofing material
Asbestos tiles from a home renovation
Broken sheets of asbestos

What is Asbestos?

Asbestos is a silicate mineral made up of tiny fibres. When it is disturbed, it produces a dust that contains asbestos fibres. Fibres breathed into the lungs can cause a range of health problems including asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma.

Asbestos was commonly used in building materials between the 1940s and 1980s because it is fire resistant, durable and an efficient insulating material. Now that we are aware of the health risks, it is no longer mined in Australia. Since December 2003, it has not been imported or used in any Australian products.

Asbestos was used in and can be found in a number of areas around the home such as roof tiles and insulation, pipe and water tank insulation, wall and floor panelling, ceilings, outdoor sheds and even as backing for vinyl flooring and can be found in the kitchen, bathroom, laundry, garage and garden shed.

Asbestos comes in 2 forms:

  • Friable: is loosely bound and can generally be found in several forms of insulation including old heaters, old hot water services and pipe insulation. Friable asbestos is more likely to release fibres and is more of a health risk.
  • Non-friable: is bound and less likely to release fibres unless it is damaged. Non-friable asbestos is generally found in sheets used in walls and ceilings, cement roof tiles, flues, water pipes and ceramic tile underlay.

Prospective home owners or renovators are encouraged to visit the Department of Health's Asbestos in the Home page for more information.

IMPORTANT: Ban on Asbestos

There is a national ban on the manufacture, supply, storage, transport, sale, use, reuse, installation and replacement of asbestos. The import and export of asbestos and goods containing asbestos are prohibited under the Commonwealth Customs (Prohibited Imports) Regulations 1956 and the Commonwealth Customs (Prohibited Exports) Regulations 1958.

Risks of Existing Asbestos Materials

Generally, the presence of asbestos in home building materials does not pose a health risk unless the material is broken, deteriorating or disturbed in such a way that dust containing asbestos fibres is produced (such as during sanding or sawing).

It is difficult to tell whether a building material contains asbestos. The only way to be certain is to have a sample of the material tested in an accredited laboratory. If you do not want to test the material then it should be treated as though it contains asbestos. Visit the BetterHealth website for more information.

If you would like to have a sample of material tested for asbestos, contact the National Association of Testing Authorities (NATA) on 9274 8200 or visit the NATA website.

Removal and Disposal of Asbestos

Due to the significant health risks associated with asbestos, there are strict requirements for its removal and disposal. For information on the safe removal of asbestos in the home, contact a licensed asbestos removalist (see section below on Licensed Asbestor Removalists) or refer to the following websites for more information.

View the 'Asbestos: A guide for householders and the general public' brochure on the Department of Health website for information about asbestos in the home.

Watch an instructional video on how to remove asbestos from your home produced by the Asbestos Council of Victoria Gippsland Asbestos Related Diseases Support (GARDS).

For information on the correct commercial transportation and disposal of all asbestos and a list of licensed asbestos disposal sites, please visit the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) website or call 8710 5555.

Licensed Asbestos Removalists

Visit the Worksafe website for more information about asbestos and for a list of licensed asbestos removalists or call WorkSafe Victoria on 1800 136 089.

Asbestos Complaints

If you have a complaint regarding the removal of asbestos by a licensed removalist or asbestos in the workplace you should contact WorkSafe on 1800 136 089 or visit the WorkSafe website.

For general asbestos related enquiries or complaints regarding incorrect removal or disposal of asbestos contact our Health Services Unit on 9298 8000 or email health.services@knox.vic.gov.au.

More Information about Asbestos

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