Asbestos in soils

When asbestos is found in soil, it is usually as a result of:

  • inadequate asbestos removal work or demolition
  • degradation of a building or structure on site
  • legacy or recent illegal dumping
  • waste burial
  • past use of contaminated fill/top soil.

Asbestos in soil poses a risk to the health of workers if the fibres become airborne and are then inhaled. The likelihood of exposure depends on the:

  • quantity and distribution
  • condition – whether it is non-friable (bonded) or friable (crumbles under hand pressure, non-bonded)
  • level of disturbance
  • systems of work and controls used to limit the release and inhalation of asbestos fibres.

Non-friable asbestos is asbestos that is bound tightly in a matrix (e.g. asbestos cement fencing, eaves). Non-friable asbestos may become friable after severe degradation, such as during a fire or as a result of a chemical ‘attack’.

Friable asbestos refers to asbestos that can be broken up using hand pressure. Examples include asbestos pipe lagging, asbestos fibres spread by high pressure cleaning of asbestos cement or fire damaged asbestos cement sheeting that has fragmented.

Friable asbestos presents a greater health risk than non-friable due to the increased chance of fibre release.


Asbestos in soils: Information sheet

This information sheet provides advice to persons in control of a workplace and those involved in inspecting, removing, managing or disposing of asbestos contaminated soils at workplaces.

Asbestos in soils information sheet


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