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People have heard many incidents related to asbestos. Asbestos has given sorrows and grief to those who were exposed to the substance. The question is, what is asbestos?

Asbestos is a general term referring to a group of six fibrous minerals that formed naturally. The term asbestos itself originally derives from the Greek word ἄσβεστος that means “inextinguishable” or “unquenchable”. This fibrous mineral is grouped into two: serpentine and amphibole.

Serpentine appears to be curly. The only member of this group is chrysotile. It is also known as white asbestos. Most asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) used in houses and industries are chrysotile. Chrysotile fibers normally the type of ACM used as an addition to cement.

The word amphibole applies to the other five remaining minerals, including, amosite, tremolite, crocidolite, anthophyllite, and actinolite. In contrast to serpentine, amphibole is composed of straight, needle-like and thin fibres. The fibres are also not as flexible as the fibres found chrysotile.



Non-Friable and Friable

The ACM is classified into two groups: non-friable and friable. The friable can be crumbled and pulverised and also reduced to power by hand power when it is dry. It can become airborne easily. Contrary to the friable type, non-friable is very solid and made from a mixture of asbestos and cement. The portion of the asbestos is around 10 to 15% from the total production.


Followings are the examples of friable and non-friable products:


Non-friable Friable
Vinyl floor tiles

Asbestos cement (AC) sheet

Bitumen-based waterproofing

AC moulded products

Pipe lagging

Boiler insulation

Fire retardant material on steel work

Sprayed insulation


When Did People Begin to Use Fibrous Material?

Prior to the end of the 1800s, industrial and commercial settings have used friable products. Mostly the products were used for insulation, soundproofing, and fireproofing. For an older building that was built before 1990, these friable products could be identified.

The first AC material that was produced in Australia was in 1920s, and later it became commonly used as house materials in the building manufacture from the mid-1940s until the late 1980s.


How about asbestos in Sydney?

It is an extremely common material for housing in Sydney. This fibrous material was extensively used in the 20th century as building materials due to its strength, insulation properties, fire resistance, sound absorption, and affordability. Houses in Sydney that were built before 1982 have a high possibility of containing the ACM. The area that mostly used this fibrous material particularly concentrated in so-called “fibro belt”. It is a group of Western Sydney suburbs constructed in the 1950s and 1960s consisting of whole streets of houses constructed from fibro. For instance, in Holroyd City Council which is located in the heart of Sydney’s west. Most houses there that were built before 1990 used fibrous products as the housing material.

Asbestos was officially banned on December 31, 2003. All kinds of manufacture, mining, import, including sale are prohibited.


What Is the Danger of Asbestos?

Scientifically, asbestos has been categorised as a human carcinogen. Carcinogen means that the substance can cause cancer. As stated by IARC, there is enough evidence that asbestos causes mesothelioma, a nearly rare cancer, lung, larynx and ovary cancer. Though mesothelioma is rare, it is the most common type of cancer-related to the exposure of ACMs.

The diseases are caused by the exposure to ACM fibres. The fibres are very rigid, when they are inhaled and enter the body then reside in the respiratory system, the fibres will not be easily thrown out and expelled by our body.

Those who even get the most risk of being infected by lung cancer are the smokers. If you are a smoker and exposed to the fibres, the possibility of getting the lung cancer is high.


Where Are ACM Products Possibly to Be Found?

The ACM can be found mostly in houses that were built before the mid-1980s. The chance of being installed with fibrous products is high. The relatively ‘safe houses’ that are not installed with any fibrous products are houses built after 1990.

The products can be found in every place, including:

  • Wall cladding
  • Corrugated roofing
  • Downpipes
  • Guttering
  • Electricity and gas meter boxes
  • Thermal insulation
  • Asbestos-insulated wiring
  • Vinyl and linoleum flooring
  • Stoves
  • Old domestic heaters
  • Fibro sheet fencing
  • Hot-water systems



How to Get Rid of Asbestos

There are some steps before you remove any fibrous product from your home. The first is testing. ACM testing is important because the fibres are extremely small and thin, even thinner than a human hair. Therefore, it requires a microscope to analyse them.

To do the testing, initially, you need to gather samples from your house. The samples then need to be sent to a laboratory. If you require a valid and accurate data of testing, a NATA accredited laboratory is the one that is recommended for you.

Once it has been analysed, you will receive the result in the form of document that lists all of the findings. The document is called asbestos register. This register is used for an asbestos management plan or AMP.


AMP: a method to manage your fibrous material

If your house or your workplace is identified with ACMs, you are required to manage those materials. That is why you have to establish an AMP. For those who manage or control a building containing fibrous products, the AMP will help you prevent the occupiers of the building to be exposed to airborne fibres.

A complete management plan needs to include:

  • Asbestos identification.
  • Reasons and decisions about the ACM management.
  • Methods for handling any incidents or emergencies that associated with fibrous material.
  • Data about people who work among materials containing fibrous products.


Removing the Danger

When the materials containing dangerous fibres are badly damaged or deteriorated, you will need to get rid of them. To remove them, you are recommended to engage a removalist that has a licence, it will either Class A (for friable type) or Class B (for non-friable type). The type of the licence is adjusted to the material and size that needed to be removed.


Disposing the Asbestos Material

To dispose of the material containing ACMs, you need to follow the rule that is established by the council of your city. Since this material contains risks to human health and the surrounding environment, there are some requirements before you send the waste, including:

  • To double packed the waste – suggested using black plastic
  • To seal the package using duct tape
  • To label the package of the waste as asbestos


The followings are facilities that accept asbestos in Sydney Metro based on the information from EPA NSW:

Elizabeth Drive Landfill Kemps Creek 1300 651 116 1725 Elizabeth Drive, Kemps Creek, NSW, 2178
Blaxland Waste Management Facility (02) 4739 2432 Attunga Road, Blaxland, 2774
Genesis Xero Waste – Landfill and Recyling (02) 9832 3333 Honeycomb Dr, Eastern Creek (off Wonderland Dr), 2766
Horsley Park Waste Management Facility (02) 9620 1944 716-56 Wallgrove Rd, Horsley Park, 2175
Kimbriki Recycling and Waste disposal centre (02) 9486 3512 Kimbriki Rd, Terrey Hills, 2084
Lucas Heights Waste & Recycling Centre 1300 651 116 New Illawarra Rd, Lucas Heights, 2234
Wetherill Park Resource Recovery Facility 1300 651 116 20 Davis Rd, Wetherill Park, 2164

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