Is asbestos banned in Australia?

In Australia, asbestos cement materials were first manufactured in the 1920’s. These materials were commonly used from the mid-1940’s until the late 1980’s; and during the 1980’s, asbestos cement materials were phased out in favour of asbestos-free products.

From 31 December 2003, the total ban on manufacture, use, reuse, import, transport, storage or sale of all forms of asbestos came into force throughout Australia.

 

Why is asbestos dangerous?

Asbestos becomes a potential risk to health if fibres are suspended in air and breathed into the lungs. Breathing asbestos fibres into the lungs can cause a range of diseases, including mesothelioma, lung cancer and asbestosis.

 

When did we start to learn the dangers of asbestos?

History shows that the dangers of asbestos fibres were discovered as early as the late 1800s/early 1900’s in Britain. In 1906, the British Royal Commission confirmed the first cases of asbestos deaths in factories, and recommended better ventilation and other safety measures.

Australia soon followed suit, introducing similar ventilation laws in 1911. However it was not until 1935 that reports began emerging of respiratory issues facing workers in the James Hardie factory in Perth, and a link between lung disease and asbestos dust was considered.

Australia’s major asbestos mine in Wittenoom, Western Australia began operation in 1940, and four years later, warnings over dust levels began to arise. Unfortunately for workers, no real action was taken, and during the period of 1961-1965 there were more than 100 cases of lung disease recorded from workers at this mine. This number increased steadily and records show that by 1975 Wittenoom mine had recorded 27 deaths.

Still asbestos continued to be mined and used across the country. By 1985, the number of deaths of asbestos mine workers was into the many hundreds, and it was in this year the first successful common law claim for compensation as a result of asbestos-related disease occurred in Victoria. Asbestos use was on the way out.

As Australians became more aware, the removal process began in earnest. Homes were knocked down, major renovations took place, and public buildings were re-built without any asbestos products.

While the use of asbestos gradually diminished, the Australia-wide ban on the manufacture and use of all types of asbestos and asbestos-containing materials took effect on 31 December 2003.

 

Dealing with asbestos today

In Australia, it is illegal to import, transport, store, supply, sell, install, use or re-use any product that contains asbestos; and a licensed asbestos removalist must carry out the removal of asbestos. For an inspection, or to find out more information on asbestos removal from your home, contact AARCO on (08) 6406 2020 or email sales@aarco.com.au