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Asbestos in Australia

Asbestos is dangerous. The risk of asbestos-related disease increases with exposure level and there is no absolutely safe level of exposure.1 Asbestos fibres can get into your lungs causing cancer and other diseases.

Our history

In Australia, the use of asbestos in residential buildings was phased out by 1990, and in 2003 the importation and use of all forms of asbestos was banned. Yet it is estimated that more than 4,000 people still die from asbestos-related disease in Australia every year.2 This is triple the annual national road toll.

Australia was one of the highest users of asbestos in the world. It is estimated that asbestos is present in 1 in 3 Australian homes. This has long-term implications for our health systems and the management of our built and natural environments.

  1. World Health Organisation
  2. Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency

Our problem now

Australia — and NSW — has a legacy of asbestos that we need to actively manage.

The asbestos in our buildings and infrastructure is reaching the end of its product life. As asbestos products age, they deteriorate and asbestos fibres are released more easily. This poses a health risk.

The people affected by asbestos are changing.  Miners and manufacturers were the first and second waves of disease sufferers, but there is now a third wave of those affected by asbestos-related disease. These are the people who work in buildings that contain asbestos — tradespeople and do-it-yourself (DIY) renovators — who may not realise that they are exposing themselves and their families to asbestos. Unlike tradespeople, DIY renovators are not protected by work health and safety laws.

Social research conducted by the NSW Environment Protection Authority (the EPA) shows that the NSW community needs support to be better aware of the asbestos around them, and to know how to keep safe around it when they do come across it. While many tradespeople know what to do, the research shows that they can be can overconfident in their knowledge and skills around it.  Research in NSW also shows that people can improve their knowledge and planning to ensure that asbestos materials are disposed of safely and legally. 

If people in our communities understand what to do, and choose to do it, then we can all protect ourselves from exposure. The good news is that our social research shows us how to target our efforts to achieve this.


Working together

The role of the NSW Asbestos Coordination Committee (NACC) is to bring together different government agencies, and to involve industry and the community to deliver solutions. The NACC was set up by the NSW Government in response to recommendations made by the NSW Ombudsman.

NSW Government and other agencies that collaborate through the NACC

NSW Health

NSW Environment Protection Authority

Aboriginal Affairs NSW


Fair Trading

Regional NSW (Public Works Advisory)

Fire & Rescue NSW

Resilience NSW

SafeWork NSW

Department of Planning, Industry and Environment (DPIE) - Planning and Assessment

Office of Local Government 

NSW Aboriginal Land Council

Local Government NSW 

Property and Development NSW

Observer - NSW Ombudsman

Observer - Commonwealth Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency

Where can I find out more about asbestos?

Visit to find out more about asbestos in NSW. If you have a home built or renovated before 1990, find out where asbestos is before you start work so you know what to do.