What is asbestos?

Asbestos is a naturally occurring material that was widely used in building materials up to 1987.  It is commonly found in materials such as:
  • ​Roofing, shingles and siding;
  • Fencing;
  • Exterior/interior wall cladding;
  • Backing material on floor tiles and vinyl flooring;
  • Textured paints; and
  • Water or flue pipes.
When such materials are left undisturbed they are relatively harmless. However if the material is damaged or disturbed it may release fibres into the air which can be dangerous to your health.

​How do I know if a material contains asbestos?

Generally, a person cannot determine whether a material contains asbestos simply by looking at it. Careful visual examination and the use of a microscope is the only way to verify the presence of asbestos. Look in the Yellow Pages under 'analysts' for a NATA accredited laboratory that can confirm the presence of asbestos in a product.
If in doubt, and the material is installed prior to 1988, treat the suspect material as though it does contain asbestos.

What are the health effects of asbestos exposure?

In its raw form, asbestos is well known to cause health effects in humans. Exposure to asbestos fibres can cause the following diseases: asbestosis, pleural plaque, lung cancer and mesothelioma.

The risk of developing an asbestos related disease depends on the total number of fibres inhaled. To date, the majority of people who have developed asbestos related diseases have been exposed to relatively large numbers of fibres, as a result of contact with the material in their occupation over a long period.

What are the health effects caused by exposure to asbestos cement?

Generally, undisturbed asbestos cement products do not pose a health risk, as the fibres are bound together in a solid cement matrix.

Disposal of asbestos 

For information on how to safely dispose of asbestos click here.

Page reviewed: 27 Jan 2017 9:11am