Asbestos in imported goods

Any product found with any level of asbestos is prohibited from being imported and used in Australia. Importers must ensure they do not import asbestos into Australia. 

Some countries still use asbestos in manufactured products and may classify goods as ‘asbestos free’ because they only contain low levels of asbestos content.

The asbestos-free certification provided by overseas manufacturers can be wrong.

Importers should be fully aware of the varying definitions and standards applied in the country of origin and/or supply and should:

  • request certification from the manufacturer that the goods are asbestos-free
  • obtain evidence from the overseas supplier, eg product testing results that the product/material does not contain asbestos
  • arrange a competent person to sample the goods/materials for testing by a laboratory prior to shipping. It is recommended that a NATA accredited laboratory, accredited for the relevant test method (AS 4964 Method for the qualitative identification of asbestos in bulk samples), or an overseas laboratory with the equivalent international accreditation be used. The NATA website has a list of accredited local and overseas laboratories.

Where an intention to lawfully import samples for Australian testing exists, the samples must be from the goods actually being imported. Direct supervision and documentation of this process in the supplier country will assist in reducing doubt as to the source of the samples

The cost of any tests or verification measures undertaken will be borne by the importer.

Australian regulations apply at the border. 

The Department of Immigration and Border Protection has important information on their website regarding prohibited and restricted imports which includes all forms of asbestos.

Asbestos in imported building goods

If you have imported building materials from a country where asbestos is legal, then you should have the material tested before using it in construction.

it is recommended that you use a NATA accredited laboratory accredited for AS 4964 Method for the qualitative identification of asbestos in bulk samples, or an overseas laboratory with the equivalent international accreditation.

Asbestos in imported fibre cement sheets

In October 2015, a builder ordered fibre cement sheets from an international website. 

The material was advertised as 100% non-asbestos fibre wall board. Unfortunately for the builder the entity supplying the fibre cement sheets also manufactures asbestos containing fibre cement sheets. A worker at the factory has wrongly selected the asbestos containing sheets for export and supplied the builder with asbestos containing fibre sheets. 

The builder has since constructed his residence using the asbestos containing fibre cement sheets. 

Upon completion of construction a number of sheets remained and were sold online. The recipient of these sheets ordered NATA accredited testing of the sheets which identified presence of asbestos. 

The builder was ordered to engage a licensed asbestos removalist to remediate the site and remove the remaining panels. 

Asbestos containing imported fibre sheets

Asbestos in imported expanded polystyrene (EPS) panels

In August 2015, Inspectors issued a prohibition notice to a building site in Sydney, following the discovery of asbestos in fibrous building panels imported to construct a residential building. 

The expanded polystyrene (EPS) panels were imported from China and were thought to be asbestos-free, but subsequent testing by the National Association of Testing Authorities (NATA) has shown they contain chrysotile asbestos.

Imported wall panels containing asbestos

The panels had been cut, and therefore significantly damaged on-site. The builder was ordered to engage a licensed asbestos removalist to remediate the site and remove the remaining panels. 

Asbestos in imported crayons

The Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency issued a consumer/retailer alert about these crayons in both PDF and Word..

Asbestos in imported vehicles.

Following the testing of spare parts, new vehicles imported from China were found to have asbestos gaskets in 2012. 

As well as imported new vehicles many older vehicles manufactured before January 2004 contain asbestos in brake, clutch linings and gaskets.

We published a safety alert about asbestos in vehicles.

More information

Work health and safety (WHS) laws apply to work involving asbestos.