Featured artist: Shannon Crees

Asbestos

Featured artist: Shannon Crees
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Asbestos

Products containing asbestos were used in a large range of building and construction materials up until 1987. Breathing in asbestos fibres is known to cause lung cancer, asbestosis and mesothelioma. However it may take 35–40 years for the illness to develop once fibres have been inhaled.

Only fibro products made before 1987 contain asbestos. In NSW the use of asbestos was discontinued in fibro sheets by 1982, in corrugated sheets by 1984 and in other products by 1986. The manufacture and use of asbestos product was banned nationally from 31 December 2003.

Types of asbestos

There are two main types of asbestos:

  • Stabilised or bonded asbestos – any product where the asbestos is bonded with a cement or resin binder that makes it more stable.
  • Friable or dusty asbestos – any product that contains asbestos in a dusty or fibrous form, where it can be crumbled, pulverised or reduced to a powder. This type of asbestos is more dangerous to handle as it is easier to inhale dangerous asbestos fibres. It can only be removed by licensed friable asbestos removalists.

Where is asbestos found?

The use of asbestos was widespread in the building industry. It can be found in many products including (but not limited to):

  • Flat, corrugated or bitumen roofing material
  • Ceiling tiles
  • Vinyl and thermoplastic floor tiles
  • Wall sheeting, millboard, textured coatings
  • Gutters, rainwater pipes and water tanks
  • Insulation around pipes and electrical equipment
  • Fire proofing around flues and ducts
  • Sprayed on to steelwork

Disposal

Individuals can remove up to 10 square metres (10 sqm) of bonded asbestos. For sizes greater than this a licensed contractor must be used.

Friable or unstable asbestos must be disposed of through a licensed asbestos removal contractor. For information about available contractors go to www.workcover.nsw.gov.au or check with industry or professional associations such as the Asbestos Removal Contractors Association (ARCA) on (02) 8586 3521.

Asbestos waste can only be disposed of at certain waste sites and must be booked in for disposal at least one day before disposing of the waste. To dispose of asbestos waste, contact WSN Environmental Solutions on (02) 9934 7115 for booking information and disposal site locations.

How can it be safely handled?

There are potentially serious health risks associated with asbestos unless it is carefully handled and disposed of. Friable and bonded asbestos materials must be handled differently.

  • Friable asbestos: Friable or dusty asbestos is extremely dangerous and can only be handled by a licensed friable asbestos removalist. For more information on licensed removalists, contact WorkCover on 13 10 50.
  • Bonded asbestos: The risks associated with installed, undisturbed asbestos products are relatively small. Even weathered asbestos roofing does not release many airborne fibres unless the material is either disturbed or handled in a way that promotes the release of fibres. However if bonded or stable asbestos disintegrates when you are handling it, immediately call WorkCover to get the assistance of a licensed asbestos removal company.

 

The information provided here has been prepared by Inner West Council and comprises general information relating to asbestos and asbestos related issues. Council has made every effort to ensure the information is current and accurate and the information has been provided in good faith. However, Council accepts no liability in respect to the use or reliance of this information.