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Asbestos and public health

Draft document for comment – Asbestos Fire Contamination

Each year in Western Australia there are more than 10,000 fire incidents, and three major bush fires have occurred in the last four years involving destruction of hundreds of buildings. Many burnt buildings and structures contain asbestos, primarily those built between World War Two and the late 1980s.

Asbestos contamination as a result of fire can spread well beyond the site involved and require special management arrangements. To better address this issue the Department of Health has developed the Draft Guidance Note on the Management of Fire Damaged Asbestos:

Draft Guidance note on the management of fire demaged asbestos (word 1613KB)

Comment is invited on this document by Friday 1 August 2014 sent to the following email address with “asbestos and fire” in the header:

Publication of the final document is planned for August 2014. In addition to the Guidance Note, a community brochure is being prepared and a package of resource documents including an example of a Local Government Remediation Notice to Owner.

Renovation Asbestos Risks

If you are thinking renovation , you must think asbestos.

West Australians are reminded to take care when renovating houses built prior to 1988, as it is likely that such houses contain asbestos materials.

It is important that you know about the potential health risks of asbestos and the safety precautions required before renovating a house that may contain asbestos.

Removing asbestos safely can be a complicated process. For this reason it is best carried out by licensed professionals who have completed relevant training.

If you consider removing small amounts of asbestos yourself, take the time to read the health advice outlined below. 


Fact sheets - Asbestos and the community

For queries concerning asbestos removal in the home and local community contact your Local Government Health Services .

Asbestos contamination

Asbestos Contaminated Sites Information
Links to more detailed information on managing asbestos contaminated sites.

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

Frequently Asked Questions

    1. What is asbestos?

    asbestos fence Asbestos is a naturally occurring material that was widely used in building materials up to 1987. It is commonly found in materials such as:

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

    When such materials are left undisturbed they are relatively harmless. However, if the material is damaged or disturbed it may release fibres into the air which can be dangerous to your health.

    2. 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 is installed prior to 1988, treat the suspect material as though it does contain asbestos.

    3. What are the health effects of asbestos exposure?

    Asbestos vinyl tiles 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.

    4. 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.

    Exposure to asbestos fibres may cause a number of diseases including asbestosis, mesothelioma, lung cancer or pleural plaque.

    5. How do I remove asbestos?

    Old asbestos roof If you decide to remove asbestos from your home it is important that you comply with the Health (Asbestos) Regulations 1992 (External link)

    It is important that you know the dangers of asbestos and what safety precautions you need to take before renovating or removing asbestos material.

    Read the Asbestos cement products in your house (PDF 250KB)  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.

    6. Do I need approval before removing asbestos from my house?

    Any building renovation work (involving removal of asbestos from your home) may require obtaining a building licence or in the case of removal of a building a demolition licence. Contact your local government health and building department for further advice.

    7. Where do I dispose of asbestos?

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

    For an updated list of facilities accepting asbestos materials refer to the Department of Environmental and Conservation  (External link) and read to the fact sheet titled "Asbestos".

    8. Who do I make a complaint to about illegal asbestos removal and/or dumping?

    If you have concerns over the inappropriate removal of asbestos or illegal dumping of asbestos material please contact your Local Government Environmental Health Services. Refer to the Local Government Directory (External link) for your local contact details.

    Occupational workplace issues

    Any issues with the management of asbestos in an occupational environment (e.g. work place) should be referred to the Department of Commerce (WorkSafe WA) on (08) 9327 8777 or the WorkSafe WA website .

    Further Information

    For further advice on asbestos removal and disposal, or to make a complaint on asbestos dumping or removal, contact your Local Government Environmental Health Services . Refer to the Local Government Directory for your local contact details. (External link)

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