Asbestos is a type of building material used in the building industry between the 1940s and late 1980s.
Before the health risks were known, asbestos products were widely used because they were durable, fire resistant and had good insulation properties.
Only a licensed contractor should remove or break materials that could possibly contain asbestos fibres.
If you suspect an area has asbestos dust, do not disturb it. Contact a licensed contractor: they are listed in the Yellow Pages under 'asbestos removal and treatment'.
There are two types of asbestos:
- Bonded asbestos is any product where the asbestos is bonded with cement or a resin binder to make it more stable. The health risks associated with these products, provided they are left undisturbed, is very low. The concern is when the products are removed or handled.
- Fibrous asbestos is any product that contains asbestos in a dusty or fibrous form, where it can be crumbled to a powder. This product is dangerous and should only be handled by a licensed asbestos contractor approved for this task.
It is difficult to identify asbestos by sight, but as a rule, if your house was built:
- before the mid 1980s it is more than likely to contain asbestos materials
- between the mid 1980s and 1990 it is likely to contain asbestos materials
- after the 1990s it is highly unlikely to contain asbestos materials.
Products that may contain asbestos include:
- flat, corrugated or bitumen roofing material
- ceiling tiles
- vinyl and thermoplastic floor tiles and backing to vinyl flooring
- carpet underlay (hessian)
- internal and external wall sheeting, textured coatings
- gutters, rainwater pipes and water tanks
- insulation around pipes and electrical equipment
- fire proofing around flues and ducts
- sprayed on to steelwork.
If left untouched, asbestos poses no immediate danger. Asbestos products that are mishandled, broken or disturbed through activities such as pressure cleaning and cutting or sanding with power tools can release the hazardous fibres.
Inhaled asbestos fibres can lodge in the airways, lungs or stomach and increase the chances of developing asbestosis, (scarring of lung tissue) mesothelioma or lung cancer. The risk of contracting these diseases increases with the number of fibres inhaled and the length of time you inhale them. However, you should always take extreme care when dealing with any asbestos product.
Don't endanger yourself, your family or your neighbours by trying to remove or demolish asbestos yourself.
If you are renovating your home and you suspect it has asbestos products, we strongly recommend that you contact a certified asbestos contractor. They are licensed to carry out any removal or disposal work safely.
If felt underlay is present under carpets, it is recommended that it is professionally removed and the work site cleaned of all dust in a manner that does not create airborne dust. Access to the site should be restricted to those involved in the work with the necessary safety equipment.
Asbestos removal contractors can also provide a specially lined bin for trades people to use during renovations. Once renovations are completed, the asbestos removal contractors will collect the bin and dispose of asbestos safely for you.
Disposal of asbestos
You cannot dispose of asbestos at Council transfer stations or in household rubbish, recycling or green waste bins. This measure aims to help ensure that residents and Council employees or contractors at Council transfer stations do not put themselves at risk by handling fibre that contains asbestos.
Only a licensed asbestos contractor can dispose of asbestos at Council's waste facilities. Search for asbestos removal businesses in the Yellow Pages under 'asbestos removal and treatment' or find out more about asbestos removal contractors.
Complaints about asbestos handling
If you believe a homeowner, occupant or owner-builder is unsafely handling, removing or transporting asbestos material or a person has illegally dumped asbestos waste, contact Council.
If you believe a business, contractor or an occupant at a commercial premises is unsafely handling, removing or transporting asbestos materials, phone the Queensland Department of Justice and the Attorney-General (Workplace Health and Safety Queensland) on 1300 369 915.
The Queensland Government Asbestos website provides more information about the health risks and the safe handling and disposal of asbestos.
Alternatively, you can phone the Queensland Government on 13 QGOV (13 74 68).