Asbestos myths and facts

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All documents issued prior to 1 July 2017 were issued by the former Department of Commerce. Documents listed here are the latest versions available, but may be subject to review. For more information on this document, please contact online@dmirs.wa.gov.au.

This fact sheet looks at some common myths and facts about asbestos. 

MYTH:  Crayons contain asbestos.

This is true for identified brands of crayons but the risk is very low.

The risk in these identified brands has been determined to be very low as the crayons contain minute quantities of asbestos fibres that are fully bound in the crayon wax.  Asbestos fibres cannot be inhaled as a result of normal use and there is no risk if the asbestos is ingested.

It is illegal to import or supply products containing asbestos for general use in Australia. Concerned consumers are advised to return the specific brand of crayon to their supplier using the simple precautions outlined in the Consumer/Retailer alert.

MYTH:  Inhaling one asbestos fibre will cause disease.

This is a myth.

FACT:    There is a background level of asbestos in the environment that presents a negligible (very low) risk to health. Health risks are related to a person’s asbestos exposure - the higher the exposure, the higher the risks.

MYTH:  Asbestos fibres can be invisible.

This is true.

FACT:   Respirable asbestos fibres are extremely small and cannot be seen without a microscope.

MYTH:  Asbestos is no longer used.

This is a myth.

FACT:    Asbestos is still used in new products in many countries. Asbestos is still widely present in existing materials in Australia (although it is prohibited in new materials).

MYTH:  Effects from asbestos exposure will be immediately felt.

This is a myth.

FACT:   Asbestos related diseases have a long latency period; that is, they take years to develop (and not all people exposed develop such disease). 

MYTH: White asbestos is less hazardous than blue or brown asbestos.

This is true.

FACT:   White asbestos (chrysotile) is considered less hazardous than amphiboles such as blue or brown asbestos, and in particular is less likely to cause mesothelioma. However, white asbestos is hazardous and carcinogenic and should be treated with the same precautions as other forms of asbestos.

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Last updated 14 Sep 2015

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