What to do about 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.

This type of asbestos can only be removed by a person holding an 'A Class' licence (see below).

  • 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 Queensland (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 10m2 or more of 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 (check disposal requirements with your local council)
  • Don’t dump asbestos waste in the environment. Fines apply.

Need more information?

Contact Workplace Health and Safety Queensland (WPS) for more information on working with asbestos.