Asbestos is the name for a group of minerals made up of many small fibres. It is a risk to health only when inhaled (breathed in) as fine dust.

If you breathe this dust in, fibres can get stuck in your lungs and body. This can lead to breathing difficulties or even lung cancer.

Before we knew about how asbestos can harm your health, it was a popular building material because of its exceptional insulating, fire-resistant and reinforcing properties. Many old buildings contain asbestos.

Left undisturbed, asbestos is safe – but if the asbestos is exposed or damaged, it can be harmful.

If you have asbestos in your home, talk to a health protection officer about what to do. You can find one at your local public health unit. It may be best to leave the asbestos undisturbed, or to seal or enclose it.

If you want to remove or seal asbestos, it’s best to have it done by a professional. Department of Labour-certified contractors are trained and equipped to do it safely. Don’t take risks with your and your family’s health.

Related websites

Better Health Channel
The Victoria (Australia) state government provides online consumer-focused health and medical information.

WorkSafe New Zealand
WorkSafe New Zealand is the workplace health and safety regulator. A range of information on asbestos is available on its website, including a series of eight factsheets on asbestos and how to register with the Asbestos Exposure Database. 

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Health information from the US government.