Asbestos cement materials that are undisturbed and in good condition do not present a health risk, since the asbestos fibres remain bound tightly as one solid material. However, it is when the material becomes damaged, starts crumbling, is disturbed by breaking, cutting, sanding or drilling, that the asbestos fibers get released into the open air and become a hazard since they can be inhaled. Different States and Territories in Australia have developed their own guidelines with regard to management of asbestos products, materials and soils. For example, in New South Wales, guidance has been put together by the Heads of Asbestos Coordinating Authorities (HACA) providing general direction on the management and assessment of asbestos in the soil. The Environmental Protection Agency has been mandated under the Contaminated Land Management Act 1997 to regulate sites that have been significantly contaminated to justify regulation. Friable Asbestos Products Friable asbestos materials and products are normally fairly soft and loose. They could be easily crumbled into fine dust or material with extremely light pressure. Such products are hazardous because the fibres of asbestos can become airborne very easily, and consequently might get inhaled by those working or living within the vicinity. Such are what are typically found in asbestos contaminated soils. Precautions While Working Outdoors When working on an asbestos soil contamination project, inform all your immediate neighbours regarding the proposed work. Advise them to have their doors and windows closed during the period when work is getting done.
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