What is asbestos?
Asbestos is a naturally occuring mineral which has been mined and mixed with a binder and shaped for its specific use. It was used extensivelyin the construction industry in New South Wales for a number of years up until 1986.
Where is it found?
Asbestos can be found in many buildings that were constructed prior to the mid 1980's, its uses were many and varied and included but were not limited to the following:
- Corrugated roofing
- Wall Cladding (internal & external)
- Thermal Insulation
- Electricity and gas meter boxes
- Vinyl - asbestos floor tiles
- Asbestos insulated wiring; and
- Fibro sheet fencing
There are two types of materials used in housing construction that contain asbestos:
- Bonded (Tightly Bound) Asbestos: Bonded materials containing asbestos are the most common in domestic houses. They are mainly made up of a bonding compound (such as cement) with up to 15% asbestos. Bonded materials containing asbestos are solid, quite rigid and the asbestos fibres are tightly bound in the material. The are commonly referred to a 'fibro', 'asbestos cement' and 'AC sheeting'.
- Loosely Bound (Friable) Asbestos: These are not commonly found in domestic houses. The were primarily used in commercial and industrial settings for fire proofing, sound proofing and insulation. They can be found in some old domestic heaters, stoves, hot water systems and associated pipe lagging and in the backing of vinyl linoleum floor coverings.
Some products which have used asbestos in the manufacturing process include:
Asbestos cement products:
- Fibrolite (1972-1982)
- Durock (up to 1974)
- Coverline or Highline profiled sheets (1972-1982)
- Hardiflex or Hardiplank (1982); New Hardiflex (1982-present)
Does not contain asbestos:
- Harditherm (1972-1982)
- Duratherm (up to 1974)
What are the dangers to health?
The presence of asbestos (which may also be referred to as fibro) does not constitute a danger if it is in good condition. However it is hazardous when disturbed during demolition, renovation or mishap, as the fibres may be released into the air and remain suspended for a considerable time allowing for their inhalation. These fibres may remain in the human body for years before cause diseases such as asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma. The is no safe exposure level for asbestos.
How should it be removed?
Materials that are suspected of containing asbestos should be inspected and tested by suitably qualified and experienced people before they are disturbed. It is not possible to establish if a material contains asbestos by simply looking at it. Doubtful materials should be treated as containing asbestos. Some materials are clearly labelled as containing asbestos.
What licences are required?
Since 1 January 2008, a bonded asbestos licence has been required in NSW to remove more than 10m2 of bonded asbestos material. A licenced bonded asbestos removalist can remove any amount of bonded asbestos material. Licencing for asbestos removalists is regulated and administered by Workcover NSW. The two types of asbestos licences are designated as AS1 and AS2 licences.
- AS1 licences the operator to carry out work with friable and bonded asbestos
- AS2 licences the operator to carry out work with bonded asbestos only.
Applications for a licence will be required to undertake appropriate supervisor training at a TAFE college or a registered training organisation and must have experience in asbestos removal or demolition. They must be at least 18 years of age and assessed by WorkCover as 'a fit and proper person'.
Further information about choosing a qualified asbestos consultant is available from the WorkCover NSW website.
Approval must be sought from Workcover for demolition and removal of asbestos. Details of the forms that need to be completed and the cost of licences are available from the WorkCover NSW web site.
Regulation of asbestos removal
When polution of land is suspected by the dumping of asbestos waste on private or public land, the Shire can investigate any offences under the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997 (POEO). In addition, asbestos waste must be taken to a waste facility that can specifically accept asbestos waste otherwise both the waste owner and the transporter could be guilty of an offence. The maximum penalties for corporations are $1,000,000 and $250,000 for an individual. Penalty Infringement Notices (PIN) vary between $750 and $5,000 for the offence under s142A and s143 POEO.
Under the POEO Waste Regulations 2005 there are rules governing transportation, collection, storage, or disposal of any type of waste. Breaching the provisions of that clause could either lead to a prosecution or a Penaly Infringement Notice being issues where the fine would be $500.
The Environmental Services Department investigates complaints related to asbestos dumps on private land Council property. You can report any concerns about dumped asbestos to the Council on 02 6830 5100.
Any concerns regarding OH&S workplace obligations should be directed to WorkCover Switchboard on 02 4321 5000 or the Asbestos/Demolition Hotline on 02 8260 5885.