Asbestos presents a health hazard if fibres of a respirable size become airborne and are then inhaled.
Possible health effects include lung cancer, asbestosis (lung scarring that impairs breathing), mesothelioma (lung cancer), and benign plural diseases (disease affecting lung linings). Any tradesperson or other worker who is required to remove asbestos materials needs to know how to do it safely.
This fact sheet contains basic information only. Please contact Workplace Health and Safety before working with asbestos.
Types of asbestos
There are two main types of materials containing asbestos that are used in building: friable (loose) asbestos; and bonded (non-friable) asbestos.
Friable (loose) asbestos
Friable asbestos refers to any asbestos-containing material that when dry, can be easily crumbled by hand. Common examples of friable asbestos are acoustic ceilings and tiles, many types of plasters, wallboard, sprayed asbestos insulation, and pipe and boiler insulation. Use of asbestos in these products was banned in the 1980s, but some may still have been used in later construction. Sweeping, dusting or using a household vacuum will make these fibres airborne. This type of asbestos can only be removed by a person holding an