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Asbestos

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Asbestos

Asbestos is commonly found in materials such as:

  • Roofing, shingles and siding
  • Fencing
  • Interior and exterior wall cladding
  • Backing material on floor tiles and vinyl flooring
  • Textured paints
  • Water or flue pipes

When material containing asbestos is left undisturbed it is relatively harmless. However if the material is damaged or disturbed it may release asbestos fibres into the air. Exposure to asbestos fibres may cause a number of diseases including asbestosis, mesothelioma, lung cancer or pleural plaque.

How do I know 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. Look in the Yellow Pages under ‘Analysts’ for a NATA accredited laboratory that can confirm the presence of asbestos in a product. If in doubt, and the material was installed prior to around 1987, treat it as though it does contain asbestos.

The Department of Health has produced a series of publications that can be used to assist in identifying materials that may contain asbestos.

What are the health effects caused by exposure to asbestos fibres?

In its raw form asbestos is well known to have adverse health effects on 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 quantity of fibres inhaled. The majority of people who develop asbestos related diseases have been exposed to relatively large quantities of fibres, often as a result of direct contact with the material during the course of their occupation.

What are the 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.

How do I remove and dispose of asbestos?

When working with asbestos materials you must comply with the Health (Asbestos) Regulations 1992. Read the Asbestos Cement Products in the Home brochure 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

For further information please see the Shire's Asbestos Disposal Fact Sheet or contact Health Services on (08) 9071 0676.

Do I need to get approval before removing asbestos from my house?

Any building, demolition or renovation work will require a permit. Contact Building Services on (08) 9071 0676 or email shire@esperance.wa.gov.au for further advice.

Occupational Issues

Any issues with the management of asbestos in an occupational environment should be referred to the Department of Commerce (WorkSafe WA) on (08) 9327 8777. See the WorkSafe WA website for further details.

Useful Websites

Key Regulatory Agencies

There are a number of different Government agencies that have a role in controlling asbestos in a range of situations. For example, asbestos in the workplace is managed by the Department of Commerce (WorkSafe), asbestos transport and disposal is regulated by the Department of Environment Regulation and asbestos in mining is controlled by the Department of Mines and Petroleum. The Department of Health has produced a document that provides a more detailed list of agencies with their roles and contact details. This document should help you to contact the relevant agency for your particular issue.

For additional information or assistance please contact Environmental Health Services on (08) 9071 0676, email  shire@esperance.wa.gov.au or call into the Shire Administration Building on Windich Street.