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What is asbestos?

Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral, used in building materials in the 1940s to 1980s because of its heat resistant and insulating properties. It is also a known health hazard and may cause illness if you inhale fibres that have become airborne. Some of the diseases include:

  • lung cancer
  • asbestosis (lung scarring that impairs breathing)
  • mesothelioma (lung cancer)
  • benign plural diseases (disease affecting lung linings)

Types of asbestos

There are two main types of materials containing asbestos used in building:

  • Friable (loose) asbestos- Friable asbestos refers to any asbestos-containing material that when dry, is easily crumbled by hand. Common examples of friable asbestos are: 
    • acoustic ceilings and tiles
    • many types of plasters
    • wallboard
    • sprayed asbestos
    • insulation
    • pipe and boiler insulation

Use of asbestos in these products was banned in the 1980s, but some may still have been used in later construction. Sweeping, dusting or using a household vacuum will make these fibres airborne.

  • Bonded (non-friable) asbestos - Bonded asbestos contains a binder or hardening agent such as cement, asphalt or vinyl and is difficult to damage by hand. Common examples of bonded asbestos are:
    • asphalt roofing shingles
    • vinyl asbestos floor tiles
    • asbestos-cement sheets (fibro)
    • electrical switchboards

When do you need a licence for asbestos removal?

If you are removing more than 10m2 of asbestos, you need a licence issued by Workplace Health and Safety (WHS):

  • A Class Licence – is required to remove loose (friable) asbestos.” A” class licence holders do not require a “B” class licence.
  • B Class Licence – is required to remove bonded asbestos.

Removing less than 10m² does not require a licence, BUT safety precautions are essential.

Environmental Tips

  • Don’t store or reuse any asbestos materials you have removed
  • Don’t dispose of asbestos waste in a normal rubbish bin or skip or during council bulk waste collections
  • Don’t dump asbestos waste in the environment. Fines apply

More information

Asbestos Industry Association
National Association of Testing Authorities (NATA)
Queensland Health

Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Australia (CC BY 3.0)
Last updated
11/10/2013 1:40 PM

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