About asbestos

Legislation

The Health (Asbestos) Regulations 1992 (external site) set the rules for any person, including home owners, who remove and dispose of asbestos material.

It is important that you are aware of the current regulations before working with asbestos.

Fact sheets – asbestos and the community

The Guidance note on public health risk management of asbestiform minerals associated with mining (PDF 718KB) is used for assessing the public health risks from any asbestos incidentally disturbed as a result of mining activities.

Prohibited: Pressure Cleaning of Asbestos Cement Roofs 2010 (PDF 157KB) provides information for landowners when managing illegal high pressure cleaning of asbestos roofs.

Asbestos contamination

  • Contamination of soil by asbestos cement material
  • Soil contaminated by asbestos cement material

Risks from asbestos can arise not only in the home but also from poor demolition and removal practices and from illegal dumping.

Identifying if a material contains asbestos

Generally, a person cannot determine whether a material contains asbestos simply by looking at it.

Careful visual examination and the use of a microscope is the only way to verify the presence of asbestos.

A NATA accredited laboratory can confirm the presence of asbestos in a product. Look in the Yellow Pages (external site) under Analysts.

If in doubt, and the material is installed prior to 1988, treat the suspect material as though it does contain asbestos.

Health effects of asbestos exposure

In its raw form, asbestos is well known to cause health effects in humans. Exposure to asbestos fibres can cause the following diseases:

  • asbestosis
  • pleural plaque
  • lung cancer
  • mesothelioma

The risk of developing an asbestos related disease depends on the total number of fibres inhaled.

To date, the majority of people who have developed asbestos related diseases have been exposed to relatively large numbers of fibres, as a result of contact with the material in their occupation.

Health effects caused by exposure to asbestos cement products

Generally, undisturbed asbestos cement products do not pose a health risk as the fibres are bound together in a solid cement matrix.

Safe removal of asbestos

If you decide to remove asbestos from your home it is important that you comply with the Health (Asbestos) Regulations 1992 (external site).

It is important that you know:

  • the dangers of asbestos
  • safety precautions you need to take before renovating or removing asbestos material.

Read Asbestos cement products in your house (PDF 240KB) for steps on how to safely remove asbestos material from your home.

Key points to remember are:

  • wet the surface of asbestos material down before commencing removal
  • do not use power tools on any asbestos material
  • wear suitable personal protective clothing
  • dispose of asbestos material at an approved landfill site.

Disposing of asbestos

All asbestos material must be disposed at a landfill or waste disposal site licensed by the Department of Environment Regulation. Not all landfill sites accept asbestos.

More information

Asbestos Regulators

  • The Department of Health regulates and provides advice on the safe handling of asbestos materials, especially in the public sector and residential sector. Guidance is also provided on the management of asbestos contaminated soil. Phone the Environmental Health Hazards Unit on 9388 4999.
  • The Department of Mining and Petroleum (external site) regulates safe asbestos practices in the resources industry.
  • Local government (external site) enforces the Department of Health asbestos regulatory requirements through their environmental health officers (EHOs). They also provide advice on local asbestos issues.
  • Department of Commerce – WorkSafe (external site) regulates and audits all aspects of asbestos in workplace, licenses asbestos removalists and conducts periodic audits of licensed persons.
  • The Department of Education (external site) manages asbestos issues in school buildings and facilities under the control of the Department. Phone 9264 4111.
  • The Department of Housing (external site) manages and provides training on asbestos issues associated with the large range of buildings and developments associated with the department. Phone: 9432 7015
  • Department of Finance – Building Management and Works (external site) leads the planning and delivery of new government buildings, such as schools, colleges, hospitals, prisons, courts and police stations. They also provide planning and procurement support for the building maintenance, including the management of asbestos, and arrange government office accommodation. Phone 6551 1000 or email asbestos@bmw.wa.gov.au
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