Asbestos

Asbestos is a naturally-occurring mineral made up of tiny fibres that is typically found in rock, sediment or soil. 

It was commonly used as insulation material in building products in Australia from the 1940’s to 1987 due to it's resistance to high temperatures, including fire, however may also be found in:

  • vinyl tiles and backing

  • guttering

  • roof sheeting, including eves and gables

  • pipe and pipe insulation

Asbestos can pose a risk to human health if particles become airborne. Read the following information to find out more:

Where is asbestos found?

Asbestos fibres were used widely in building materials before the mid-1980s. If your house was built or renovated prior to the late1980s, it is likely to contain asbestos material.  You cannot identify asbestos in material just by looking at it.  The only way to be certain is to have a sample of the material analysed by a laboratory.

Before asbestos containing products were phased out in the late 1980’s and completely banned in Australia in 2003, it was used in more than 3000 common building materials. Asbestos may be in places you wouldn’t expect, like flooring, kitchens, bathrooms, as well as roofs, ceilings and walls. To search for products that may contain asbestos you can use the ‘Asbestos finder’ search function on the NSW Government website.

Asbestos in the home

Asbestos fibres can pose a risk to health if airborne, as inhalation is the main way that asbestos enters the body. Small quantities of asbestos may be present in the background air we breathe. Most people are exposed to very small amounts of asbestos as they go about their daily lives and do not develop asbestos-related health problems.

Finding that your home or workplace is made from fibro products does not mean your health is at risk. If asbestos fibres are in a stable material such as bonded asbestos-cement sheeting or ‘fibro’ sheeting and are in good condition it will not pose a significant health risk. However, where fibro or other bonded asbestos sheeting is broken, damaged or mishandled, fibres can become loose and airborne posing a risk to health. Disturbing or removing asbestos unsafely can create an increased risk.

If you have materials in your home you suspect may contain asbestos and are concerned with potential health risks, Council recommends you treat all potential asbestos containing materials as if they do contain asbestos.

You can't tell whether a material contains asbestos simply by looking at it. If in doubt, treat the material as if it contains asbestos. You may wish to seek professional advice or to have your home inspected for asbestos-containing materials by a trained and experienced expert such as an environmental consultant or occupational hygienist if:

  • you are planning to renovate your home (renovations can disturb building material)

  • your home has damaged building materials (like cracked or weathered cement sheeting)

If the material does contain asbestos these qualified persons can also provide advice on how to manage the risks associated with the material.

For more information, visit the Asbestos Awareness website.

Removal and disposal

Fines of up to $7,500 (individual) and $15,000 (company) apply if you do the wrong thing with asbestos waste. Penalties of up to $1,000,000 apply if the matter is heard in court.  

If you are removing asbestos as part of works associated with a development approval, Council will generally require that this is done by a licensed asbestos removal contractor. If you are handling or removing asbestos as part of works that do not require development approval Council strongly recommends that you also use a licensed asbestos removal contractor. SafeWork NSW provide a list of licenced asbestos contractors on their website.

As the owner of the waste, you are responsible for ensuring your asbestos waste is disposed of lawfully, even if you pay someone to take it away for you. Make sure your contractor gives you a copy of the disposal receipt.

Special care and management is needed even for small renovation jobs and it is important get advice about how to identify, remove, handle and dispose asbestos and hazardous substances properly. The Department of Health website provides home owners advice on living and working with asbestos including "Asbestos - a guide for householders and the general public".

Asbestos must only be disposed of at a waste facility licenced to receive asbestos waste.The Cessnock Waste Management Centre, located at 1967 Old Maitland Road, Cessnock 2325, will accept asbestos containing material but must be given 24 hours notice.

Asbestos material must be transported to the facility wrapped and taped up in thick tear resistant plastic. If you have over 100 kilograms or 10 square metres of asbestos waste to dispose of, the person transporting the load to the landfill must create a unique consignment number and report it to the EPA using WasteLocate. For more information, see Disposal of asbestos waste.

It is illegal to:

  • dispose of asbestos waste in domestic kerbside bins. It is dangerous for Council staff and can contaminate otherwise recyclable waste streams
  • reuse, recycle or illegally dump asbestos products or asbestos contaminated waste.

Regulation of asbestos

The handling and storage of asbestos waste at worksites is regulated by SafeWork NSW (formerly WorkCover) under the provisions of the Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011.

 

The storage, disposal and transport of asbestos waste is regulated by the EPA or your local council under the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997 and the Protection of the Environment Operations (Waste) Regulation 2014.

 

Council may apply and enforce conditions regarding asbestos on development consents and respond to requests concerning public health risks associated with asbestos such as unsafe structures, illegal dumping or contamination of land.

 

The EPA or Council can issue clean-up notices and prevention notices which require landowners and/or polluters to address pollution incidents.

If you are served with a clean-up notice, you must pay for the cost of cleaning up and safely disposing of the waste.