About Asbestos

Asbestos has been widely used in manufacturing and construction for many years.  While no longer used in NZ today, it is still present in many buildings and products.  Because of the health risks associated with exposure to asbestos it is now more carefully managed.

The Health and Safety at Work (Asbestos) Regulations 2016,
govern asbestos related works in New Zealand.

Asbestos Facts

Asbestos refers to a group of six naturally occurring minerals that have been mined extensively since the 19th century. Asbestos minerals have several desirable properties including high tensile strength, heat and water resistance and low cost. This made asbestos a staple product within the construction and manufacturing industry during the 20th century.

Over time asbestos was found to be a potent carcinogen linked with a large number of serious respiratory diseases and cancers. To protect asbestos workers and minimise health risks from exposure to airborne asbestos fibres, strict rules and regulations surrounding the use and removal of asbestos containing materials were implemented.

The Health Risks

Asbestos is New Zealand’s number one workplace killer with approximately 170 deaths per year reported as asbestos related. The inhalation of asbestos fibres can cause several severe and often fatal diseases including asbestosis, mesothelioma, and lung cancer. The microscopic asbestos fibres lodge themselves in the lower linings of the lung and the body is unable to remove them; over time this build-up of fibres leads to severe illness and death. The more fibres inhaled, the more severe the health effects; one severe exposure or many small exposures can have equally devastating health impacts. All asbestos containing materials need to be maintained in good condition or repaired or removed by a specialist in order to manage fibre release and minimise health risks.

There are around 170 asbestos related deaths per year in New Zealand