Asbestos in Australia

Asbestos was mined in NSW from 1940-1979 at Baryulgil on the north coast, at Barraba (Woodsreef) on the northern tablelands from 1918–23 and 1970–83 and at Wittenoom in Western Australia from 1940-1966.

The widespread use of asbestos during the last century in manufacturing, transport, and building products (particularly sheeting and roofing) has resulted in an increasing number of people developing asbestos-related diseases. Products containing asbestos can still be found widely in the community, they include:

  • Asbestos cement sheet pipe and products used for water supply and sewage piping, casings for electrical wires, fire protection material, chemical tanks, electrical switchboards and residential and industrial building materials such as cement sheeting.
  • Friction products such as clutch facings and brake linings for cars.
  • Products containing asbestos paper such as table pads and heat protective mats, heat and electrical wire insulation, small appliance components and underlying material for sheet flooring.
  • Asbestos textile products such as packing components, roofing materials, heaters.
  • Other products including ceiling and floor tiles, gaskets and packing, paints, coating and sealants.

Asbestos products were gradually removed from production during the 1980s. Between 1981 and 1983, asbestos flat sheeting was phased out. In 1985, corrugated products (roofing and cladding) were also removed from production. Asbestos-lined piping was not made after 1987 and in 2003 brake pads and linings ceased to contain asbestos. Legislation in Australia makes it illegal for any new materials to contain asbestos fibres and people are no longer able to import, manufacture, supply, store, transport, sell, use, reuse, install or replace asbestos-containing materials.

Despite an Australia wide ban on asbestos being sold, reused and/or imported into Australia after 31 December 2003, some asbestos materials have been imported into the country; accordingly if you have concerns about a product or material, have it tested by a National Association of Testing Authorities (NATA) accredited laboratory – www.nata.asn.au