Frequently Asked Questions
About Asbestos Removal
Is it safe if my house has an asbestos roof?Asbestos cement products are not a significant health risk if they are in a stable condition and remain undisturbed. Roofing that is weathered, structurally unsound or no longer waterproof should be replaced. You should never walk on an asbestos cement roof as they are brittle and people have died or suffered injury after falling through. Engage a licensed asbestos removalist.
What is asbestos?Asbestos is the term used to describe a group of naturally occurring minerals whose characteristic feature is that they occur as fibres. The most common types used in Australia have been: chrysotile (white asbestos) amosite (brown asbestos) crocidolite (blue asbestos).
How do I know if a wall in my house contains asbestos?Most wall claddings do not contain asbestos, but what is behind an interior wall could. If your house was built from 60's through to early 2000 it could have an insolation product containing asbestos. Contact us for an appraisal if you are unsure.
I need to remove asbestos from my home. Should I do it myself or employ a licensed asbestos removalist?WorkSafe recommends you employ a licenced asbestos removalist, as these contractors have the skills, knowledge and equipment to do the work safely. However, if you decide to do the work yourself, do not put yourself or your family at risk, or risk contaminating your house or land. Get the right information and equipment before you start.
What products may contain asbestos?
- Asbestos cement products such as building materials ('fibro'), fences, switchboards and roofing
- Sprayed on insulation and acoustic applications
- Buildings, ships and other structures
- Vinyl asbestos floor tiles
- Laboratory tabletops
- Heater banks (air-conditioning ducts)
- Roofing felts
- Suspended ceiling tiles
- Friction materials (brake pads, shoes, etc)
- Industrial gaskets
- Naturally occurring ores/soils
- Fire doors and other fire resistant materials
- A variety of other building materials and plant components – refer to the for a comprehensive list. Asbestos materials may also be found in soil due to past land uses.
What is friable asbestos?Friable asbestos is asbestos in the form of a powder, or which is soft and crumbles under hand pressure. Examples include asbestos pipe insulation and the paper like backing on asbestos backed vinyl sheet flooring. Non-friable asbestos containing material, such as asbestos cement sheet, can become friable in some circumstances (eg if involved in a severe fire).
Is asbestos banned in Australia?
Yes, the importation and use of asbestos in Australia was banned from December 31st 2003. All uses of asbestos are banned except for the following:
- asbestos containing materials that are in the same place and used in the same way as they were before 1 January 2004;
- bona fide research or analysis with the approval of the WorkSafe Commissioner;
- handling for removal or disposal purposes; and
- asbestos in its natural state and location.
What are the health risks from asbestos?Exposure to airborne asbestos fibres can cause diseases including asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma. The risk depends on factors such as the concentration of respirable asbestos fibres inhaled, the frequency of exposure, fibre type and genetic factors. Asbestos – a guide for householders and the general public is a national publication on asbestos, providing information on risk and safe handling. This is a risk management document and is designed to assist householders reduce the risks associated with exposure to asbestos fibres. It was developed by the Environmental Health Standing Committee (enHealth), in consultation with technical experts and with input from other government agencies. Below is an extract from this publication on Asbestos-related risk of disease.
Can I use high pressure water to clean my asbestos roof/fence?
Under the Occupational Safety and Health Regulations 1996 high pressure cleaning of any material that contains asbestos is prohibited.
WorkSafe Queensland has produced a video to show the dangers of high pressure cleaning of asbestos roofs - Video