Asbestos and the community


What is asbestos?

Asbestos is the general term for a group of naturally occurring fibrous minerals used extensively in building materials from the 1940s to the late 1980s.

Asbestos was widely used in the past for its fire protection, weather resistance, noise reduction and insulation properties. Although the use of asbestos was gradually phased out from the mid-80s, its widespread use means it remains an ongoing public health risk.

Health risks

Asbestos poses a risk to health when fibres are inhaled. This risk is created when friable (damaged and or crumbling) asbestos materials become air-borne as a result of actions such as cutting, breaking, drilling etc. Non-friable (or bonded) asbestos materials in good condition do not pose a risk to health because the fibres are bound in cement. Health effects caused by asbestos exposure can include pleural plaques, lung cancer and Mesothelioma. The risk of developing asbestos-related disease depends on the number of fibres breathed in and the frequency, but in general it requires ongoing exposure to high levels of asbestos.

For general health advice contact the Health Protection Branch on 8226 7100 or consult your GP.

Identification of asbestos

Generally it is not possible to tell whether a material contains asbestos just by looking at it. The only way to determine its presence is by scientific assessment at a laboratory.

Areas where asbestos may be found around the home (for homes built before 1990) include roof and wall cladding, backing material on some types of floor tiles, backing of wall tiles in wet areas and insulation in wood heaters. SafeWork SA has a list of licenced asbestos assessors (see link below).

Home renovation

While there are no legal requirements for individual homeowners to have a licence to remove asbestos containing material from their own property, some jobs are best left to experts. It is strongly recommended that you don’t carry out this work yourself, and instead engage a licensed asbestos removalist (refer SafeWork SA link below).

Refer to Asbestos SA for relevant information on the safe handling and removal of asbestos for homeowners.

Reporting asbestos

  • General complaints concerning asbestos in the community or the conduct of home renovators, contact Council's Environmental Health Team 8416 6333.
  • Concerning licensed contractors and work sites, contact the Safe Work SA Help Centre on 1300 365 255.
  • To report suspected illegal dumping or other environmental incidents, contact the Environment Protection Authority on 8204 2004.

Government agencies and further information is the home of advice for South Australians concerned about asbestos in their homes or workplaces.

Website information is the outcome of collaboration between SafeWork SA, SA Health, the EPA, the LGA, Housing SA and Department for Infrastructure and Transport (formerly DPTI). Each agency plays an important role in managing the risks of exposure and providing information and advice to South Australians about asbestos.

Check out the website for information on finding and identifying asbestos, what to do with it, how to remove it and where to put it for residential settings and workplaces.