We’ve seen the new classification guidelines in force for two weeks now, and they are the latest of a series of changes in the Australian Capital Territory’s asbestos laws.
The changes have been rolled out to other Australian states, but the ACT’s new asbestos classifications have been a bit more contentious.
A new classification is the first in a series that will change the way people in the ACT are considered to be exposed to asbestos, which has a variety of health risks including cancer and lung disease.
The first new classification has been the most contentious, with some sections of the legislation being described as “dangerous” and some sections as “non-dangerous”.
While it may seem odd that asbestos-containing products are classified as dangerous in the first place, that’s because the ACT is one of just three states to have the asbestos classification.
That means the law only applies to products that have been tested by a health authority, as opposed to lab tests, and that it’s up to health authorities to determine if the product meets the new asbestos standard.
That’s where the new classifications come in.
While the legislation only applies in the state of ACT, there are some exceptions to the new category.
If a product is a “dangerously low level” of asbestos and contains asbestos, then the class will apply, and if the asbestos content is between 10 per cent and 25 per cent, then it will not be classified as hazardous.
And in some instances, the asbestos class will be more stringent than the normal asbestos classification because the health authorities can’t exclude all products with asbestos content above the standard.
There’s also a new “non‑hazardous” classification which allows products that are “not harmful to health or the environment”, meaning they can’t pose a health risk to the consumer.
So how does the new rules stack up?
Here’s a look at some of the most controversial classifications.
The new asbestos classification:In the ACT, asbestos is classified as a class of “non‐hazardous”, which means it’s considered less than 10 per, 25 per or 50 per cent asbestos content.
In other words, if a product meets all the requirements for the class, then they’ll be classified under the new mandatory standard of 10 per or 25 per per or even 50 per.
This is where the confusion arises.
A product that has the “non–hazardous asbestos content” is classified by the Health Department as asbestos and it’s not classified as “hazardous”.
But, under the old classification, it was considered hazardous because the asbestos was not contained in the product.
The Health Department has now updated their asbestos classification guidelines to more accurately reflect this.
So if a manufacturer decides to remove a product with asbestos, the Health department will consider that as hazardous, and the product will be classed under the mandatory asbestos standard of the class.
The old asbestos classification has a maximum asbestos content of 50 per per cent.
But under the revised classification, the maximum is 25 per, so the maximum asbestos exposure is only 25 per.
So there’s no maximum asbestos limit in the new regulations.
And, if the manufacturer chooses to keep their product, it will need to comply with the new “no more than 50 per 100 square cent” standard.
The non-hazardous class:The ACT’s non-dangerously class is the same as the old asbestos class, but it doesn’t require the manufacturer to keep the product with an asbestos content below the “no greater than 50” standard for the new standard.
This means the health authority will consider a product to be a “nonhazardous product” if it’s a product that meets the standard for asbestos, and less than 50-50 asbestos content, for example.
The Health Department says it’s “currently assessing the effectiveness of the new guidelines”.
What does that mean for you?
There are some products that might not be considered “non hazardous” under the ACT law, but they’ll still need to follow the mandatory standard.
These are products like furniture, and there are also some products such as nail polish that are not asbestos-contaminated, but may not have enough asbestos content to meet the new maximum.
The other thing to consider is that some products may still meet the mandatory minimum asbestos level if they are below the mandatory level, but are still considered asbestos-free by health authorities.
For example, products that contain more than 10 parts per million of asbestos or more than 25 per 100 parts per millimetre of asbestos in a product can still meet both the mandatory and non-mandatory standard.
So the ACT health authority may still consider a “safe” product to still be asbestos-covered, if it meets the requirements under the previous asbestos classification, and is below the required asbestos content for the mandatory class.
There are also products that will still be considered asbestos free if they don’t meet the asbestos standard and there’s still the mandatory threshold, but still meet this new requirement for asbestos content under the asbestos