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For Consumers > Asbestos

Some common questions answered

Do new building materials contain asbestos?

No. Since 31 December 2003, asbestos and all products containing asbestos have been banned throughout Australia.  It is illegal to import, store, supply, sell, install, use or re-use these materials. The ban does not apply to asbestos installed prior to this date (eg. asbestos in houses).

Asbestos has not been used in domestic building materials since the 1980s. Cellulose fibres are now used instead of asbestos in building materials and non-asbestos fibres, such as glass, are now used in insulation products. However, manufacturers warn that other health effects, such as skin and throat irritation, can still result from the inhalation of dust created when cutting these fibrous building products.

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What should I do if I find asbestos in my home?

If materials containing asbestos are in your home and are in good condition (ie. undamaged, undisturbed), the safest option is to leave them alone. In other words, let sleeping dogs lie! If left alone and in good condition, these materials are not dangerous as the asbestos fibres are tightly bound and very few escape into the air over time. Visually inspect the materials from time to time for deterioration and damage.

If you are thinking about working with or removing a material that contains asbestos, consider:

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Can I get materials tested for asbestos?

Microscope for identifying asbestos (Image courtesy of Dept. of Human Services, Victoria
Yes. Laboratories that analyse building materials for asbestos can be found by contacting the National Association of Testing Authorities. The laboratories can also give you advice on how to correctly take and send a sample. There will be fees involved. You can also contact an asbestos consultant for advice. They can be found in the Yellow Pages by searching under “Asbestos”.

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What if I accidentally break asbestos?

If you accidentally break a material containing asbestos, the safest way to manage any health risks is to wipe up any dust with a damp cloth or paper towel, put the cloth/towel into two plastic bags, tie them up individually and put them in your rubbish bin.

If the material containing asbestos is cracked, you should seal the crack with a product like PVA glue or paint. If it is more significant damage, the entire sheet should be replaced and the old sheet disposed of correctly. Laws and safe procedures will need to be followed.

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What if I need to put a hole in a bonded material containing asbestos?

If it is necessary to put a hole in a bonded material containing asbestos (eg. for a chimney), it is safer to remove the whole sheet, replace it with non-asbestos sheeting (eg. plywood, plasterboard, fibre cement sheeting) and cut the hole in the new sheeting. Laws and safe procedures will need to be followed when removing the sheet.

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Last Updated: 25 May 2007
Last Reviewed: 11 November 2008