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
- sprayed asbestos
- 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.
- 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.