Why you should be concerned
If your house was built or renovated before 1990, it's likely to contain asbestos. If that asbestos is in good condition and unlikely to get damaged, it is often best left alone. If asbestos is disturbed during renovations or building works, it can release dangerous dust containing very fine asbestos fibres. There is no safe level of exposure to asbestos fibres, and no cure for asbestos-related diseases, including lung cancer and mesothelioma (another type of cancer).
What you should do
The best way to find out if you have asbestos in your property and what you should do with it is to hire a licensed asbestos assessor to inspect and test it for you.
It is important to have a professional do a risk assessment for asbestos before renovating an older home.
Your legal responsibilities
But if they involve removing more than 10 square metres of bonded or friable asbestos (asbestos that can be easily broken up or is crumbly), a licensed asbestos removal specialist must do that work.
If the works are more significant and require development consent, certifiers have responsibilities for asbestos management or councils may impose related consent conditions.
If your renovation includes removing less than 10 square metres of non-friable asbestos, you are permitted to do the work yourself. If you do need to work with a small amount of material that may contain asbestos, don’t do any activity that can release asbestos fibres from non-friable asbestos into the air. These activities include:
- water blasting.
Given the risks involved with handling asbestos, we encourage renovators to engage a licensed asbestos removal contractor to remove asbestos from older properties.
Naturally occurring asbestos
Naturally occurring asbestos (NOA) is most commonly found by council staff and contractors building roads, working on construction sites or excavating.
If NOA is identified at your workplace, or is likely to be present at a workplace, your site manager is legally required to develop an asbestos management plan.
Disposing of asbestos materials
When dealing with asbestos waste:
- do not dump it in a demolition waste skip or bin
- do keep it damp to minimise dust
- do make sure it is separated from other demolition waste
- do wrap it in heavy-duty plastic secured with tape
- do take it to a licensed waste facility.
If you cannot find a facility near you in an online search, contact your local council to find out about a landfill site that may lawfully receive asbestos waste in your area.