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Testing requirements for all asbestos types

The onus is on the importer and supplier to ensure materials they are importing and supplying do not contain asbestos.  Customers purchasing materials and products can reasonably expect the supplier to provide evidence (as outlined below) that the materials/products do not contain asbestos. If sourcing imported goods from outside Australia, you should seek appropriate evidence from your suppliers that the supply chain is assured not to use asbestos and that products and materials do not contain any level of asbestos.

The only certain way of assuring a material or product does not contain asbestos is for the sample to be analysed by a laboratory accredited for asbestos identification. Australian accredited laboratories can be found at the National Association of Testing Authorities (NATA) website.

In Australia, samples are to be sent to a laboratory that is NATA accredited for the testing of asbestos and conforms to the following:

  • is accredited for compliance with ISO/IED:17025
  • uses test method AS 4964-2004 Qualitative identification of asbestos type in bulk samples by polarised light microscopy (PLM) including dispersion staining techniques.
  • is accredited by NATA for the above method
    • Note AS4964 will adequately identify crocidolite, amosite and chrysotile asbestos if present in the samples
    • However, AS4964 states - samples of tremolite, actinolite and anthophyllite show a wide range of optical properties and cannot be equivocally identified by PLM and dispersion staining
    • This means that while the laboratory should be able identify if mineral fibre/s are present, it may not be able to identify if the fibre is tremolite, actinolite or anthophyllite asbestos. To determine which asbestos fibres are present requires a confirming technique to be used (see below).

Therefore, the laboratory carrying out the analysis must provide a test analysis certificate that:

  • includes a statement that the laboratory complies with ISO/IED:17025, is accredited by NATA for the method used and states the test method used, and
  • states if asbestos is present, including the type of asbestos, or
  • states no asbestos detected (NAD) when no asbestos has been detected, and
  • also states the limit of detection of the analytical method, and 
  • states if unknown mineral fibre/s were identified, and
  • has a batch number or unique identifier such as a serial number to identify the goods or materials tested.

If the test analysis is uncertain regarding asbestos content and/or unknown mineral fibres were identified there are two options:

  1. assume asbestos fibres are present and manage the product as an asbestos containing material,

    OR - if you need to have definitive identification of asbestos content
  2. have the samples analysed using a confirming technique such as electron microscopy (that will characterise the morphology of unknown mineral fibre/s) or XRD analysis (that will determine the chemical composition of the unknown mineral fibre/s).

Find a list of laboratories that hold permits to import asbestos samples for testing here.