Asbestos and building

Building materials containing asbestos

This page has information about how asbestos was previously used in construction, and where you might still find it in your home or workplace.

Previous use of asbestos

Asbestos was used widely as a building material in Australia between the 1940s and 1980s until it was discovered it can cause serious health problems.

A naturally occurring mineral fibre, it has excellent fire resistance, insulation properties, fibre strength, durability and flexibility.  

The manufacture and distribution of all forms of asbestos has been banned in Australia since 31 December 2003.

Read the introduction to this section to find out about the health risks, in particular for friable asbestos. 

Non-friable (bonded) asbestos products

Non-friable asbestos is made from a bonding compound, such as cement, mixed with a small proportion of asbestos fibres.

Non-friable asbestos products are solid and rigid, and cannot be crumbled or reduced to a powder by hand pressure. 

In the Northern Territory, many buildings were constructed using non-friable asbestos cement materials, including the following: 

  • roofing
  • shingles and siding
  • exterior and interior wall cladding
  • eaves
  • fencing
  • water or flue pipes
  • fire doors
  • floor tiles and linoleum
  • communication pits and ducts
  • electric circuit boards
  • bitumen-based waterproofing
  • in mechanical services plant rooms.

Friable asbestos products

Asbestos is friable if it can be easily crumbled in your hand. 

Non-friable asbestos material may become friable if it is crumbling, or damaged by breaking, cutting, drilling or sanding. 

Friable asbestos products were used to construct buildings in the past, and may be found in the following:

  • asbestos-rope door gaskets in wood stoves
  • loose fill roofing insulation
  • spray-on insulation or soundproofing               
  • low-density asbestos fibreboard on hot-water pipes, domestic heaters and stoves - eg: lagging
  • backing material on floor tiles and vinyl flooring
  • textured paints and decorative ceiling coatings
  • heat-resistant fabrics
  • boiler insulation
  • fire retardant material on steelwork
  • brick and plaster sealants, fillers and some adhesive products.

Breathing in asbestos fibres may cause asbestos-related diseases and death.

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Last updated: 09 June 2016

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