Website Main content
Website Secondary navigation Public health

Guide to Mr Fluffy friable asbestos insulation

Between 1968 and 1979, a private contractor from Canberra known as "Mr Fluffy" insulated residential dwellings by pumping friable loose asbestos fibres into the roof cavities of many houses in the Canberra, Queanbeyan and surrounding regions. Houses built in the Eurobodalla before 1980 may potentially contain "Mr Fluffy" asbestos insulation.

+ Expand all information for print

Latest news

20 May 2016: The Voluntary Purchase and Demolition Program provides safety, certainty and support for NSW residents

29 June 2015: The State Government announced that it will set aside as much as $250 million for a voluntary home buyback scheme that could see more than 500 houses demolished in places like Queanbeyan, Yass, Bungendore, Lithgow and even Manly. To date, no homes in the Eurobodalla have been confirmed to contain loose-fill asbestos. If you live in a home built before 1980 you've got until August 2015 to register for the free testing program.

15 April 2015: Two Queanbeyan properties have tested positive for loose-fill asbestos as part of the Heads of Asbestos Coordination Authorities (HACA) independent investigation into loose-fill asbestos in NSW. The properties are the fifth and sixth to be identified as part of the investigation's free ceiling insulation testing program for homeowners across 26 NSW local government areas. The number of NSW properties confirmed to contain loose-fill asbestos is now 62.

March 2015: The banks that have been the first to offer financial relief to NSW customers in loose fill asbestos insulation affected properties have been announced by the Loose Fill Asbestos Insulation Taskforce today.

19 December 2014: The NSW Minister for Finance and Services, Dominic Perrottet, announced a further assistance package for NSW residents who have loose-fill asbestos in their homes. The 'Make Safe' assistance package supplements other measures with financial assistance to help residents safely manage loose fill asbestos. The package provides financial support for sealing of cavities, environmental cleaning of habitable areas, hazard labelling and regular inspections. It also provides support for counselling services, assistance towards the replacement of furnishings and emergency accommodation, if required.

  • The NSW Government Loose-Fill Asbestos Response website explains the Make Safe assistance package further and provides answers to frequently asked questions about loose-fill asbestos.
  • For more information or to register for a service, phone Service NSW on 13 77 88.

The Loose Fill Asbestos Insulation Taskforce will develop a comprehensive action plan to advise the government on the most appropriate enduring solution to the loose-fill asbestos issue in NSW which will look at options that could include government purchase, demolition and owner rebuild options.

17 December 2014: A New South Wales Parliamentary Enquiry urged the NSW Government to implement a state-wide buy back and demolition scheme for all residences contaminated by loose-fill asbestos insulation or 'Mr Fluffy' insulation.

Committee Chairman Reverend the Hon Fred Nile MLC said the issue warrants the immediate attention of the NSW Government. and precise number of affected homes has not yet been established but there were 59 homes identified as being contaminated by loose-fill asbestos insulation state-wide, with the potential for many hundreds more.

He said he believed that ultimately a buy-back scheme is the only way the NSW Government will achieve a viable and enduring overall solution to the problem of loose-fill asbestos insulation. The committee was originally due to complete its report in February 2015 but the unanimously agreed to bring forward its reporting date because urgent action is required.

15 December 2014: Thirteen properties in the Eurobodalla have registered for the free testing service for loose-fill asbestos insulation.

The Heads of Asbestos Coordination Authorities (HACA) engaged Pricewaterhouse Coopers to conduct an independent investigation into loose-fill asbestos in New South Wales and is providing free ceiling insulation testing to identify the full extent of affected homes across the state.

As of 11 December, 1243 premises in the 26 council areas have registered for the free sampling service. Licensed asbestos assessors are currently undertaking inspections and testing of properties. As of 11 December, 384 properties, including 11 in the Eurobodalla have been tested. All samples have returned a negative result.

Testing is ongoing and concerned residents in homes built before 1980 can contact WorkCover on 13 10 50 to see if they are eligible to have their property assessed and tested for the material.

19 August 2014: The NSW Minister for Finance and Services Dominic Perrottet announced an independent investigation to help determine the number of premises in NSW that may contain loose-fill asbestos ceiling insulation and is offering:

  • a free independent technical assessment to affected homeowners to advise and/or confirm the adequacy of risk controls in each of the identified homes for 12 months.
  • a free testing service to residents in the 14 local government areas for any suspected loose fill asbestos from homes built prior to 1980 for 12 months.

Eurobodalla Shire Council would like to urge local residents to take up on this offer.

Definitions

In 1989, the Australian Government recognised the risk of this friable, loose asbestos and conducted a survey of homes in the ACT constructed prior to 1980. They found that 1.5 per cent of homes built in the ACT before 1980 contained this type of asbestos insulation (to date it has been confirmed that 1050 homes contain this material). The government then funded an extensive Loose Asbestos Insulation Removal Program for these homes. This program was not offered in regional NSW and it is therefore unknown how many houses in Eurobodalla may potentially be affected.

Asbestos

Asbestos refers to naturally occurring mineral silicates that were mined in Australia and around the world for their recognised properties of strength, durability, fireproofing and water-proofing. Asbestos mining ceased in Australia in 1983 and the use of asbestos products is now banned.

Friable asbestos

Friable asbestos products generally comprise loose material that contains asbestos that is either in a powder form or a form that can be crumbled, pulverised or reduced to a powder by hand pressure when dry. Friable asbestos products are dangerous because the asbestos fibres can be released into the air very easily and may be inhaled by people living or working in the vicinity.

Latest loose fill asbestos insulation advice

Testing by the Department of Health has found that asbestos fibres found in "Mr Fluffy" ceiling insulation do not tend to escape into the living areas of a dwelling provided the dwelling is structurally sound with no openings in the walls or ceilings and the insulation itself was left undisturbed. Owners are advised to seal and restrict access to all roof space openings and to attach labels to any such openings to warn of the presence of asbestos.

The Heads of Asbestos Coordination Authorities (HACA) has recently provided up-to-date advice on the safe management of loose-fill asbestos. This information, including photographs of what loose-fill asbestos insulation looks like, is available from WorkCover by calling 131 050 or visiting their website.

How do I know if my home contains loose fill asbestos insulation?

Eurobodalla Shire Council encourages all concerned home-owners and prospective owners of properties built before 1980 to engage a professional asbestos assessor to check for all forms of asbestos in the home, including loose filled asbestos in their roof space, and prepare an asbestos report. This is the most accurate way to determine if a building or structure contains asbestos and will confirm through sample analysis under a microscope if any loose material in the roof space is in fact asbestos.

It is easy to mistake other forms of loose insulation material, such as rockwool, fiberglass or cellulose, for asbestos but these materials do not present a health risk. An asbestos assessor can provide specialist advice on the presence of asbestos material and the steps you need to undertake to make it safe.

An asbestos inspection must be undertaken by a person who is competent in the identification and assessment of asbestos such as an occupational hygienist and who is licensed under the NSW Work Health and Safety Regulations 2011.

You can search for a suitably qualified asbestos assessors at the following link:

Can I renovate my home if it contains loose asbestos insulation?

If your property contains loose fibre asbestos insulation you should not undertake any refurbishment work that might expose you to asbestos fibres. This includes work altering any walls, ceilings, cornices, or cabling (unless it is surface mounted) or creating additional wall sockets/outlets that are recessed in walls. You should avoid accessing subfloor areas until a further asbestos assessment is conducted under controlled conditions by a WorkCover licensed asbestos assessor.

For demolition or redevelopment work, any asbestos containing materials must be safely removed and disposed of prior to starting the work. Only qualified tradespeople with asbestos awareness training can work on any areas that have been identified as containing asbestos. Removal of loose-fill asbestos fibres may only be undertaken by a Class A licensed asbestos removalist.

If you are unsure of whether your property contains asbestos, Eurobodalla Shire Council recommends that you delay undertaking any refurbishment work that might expose you to asbestos fibres until an asbestos assessor has certified that your property is asbestos-free.

How do I know my home is safe if there is loose fill asbestos present?

A licensed asbestos assessor or an occupational hygienist will be able to provide advice on whether or not your living spaces are well-sealed and any asbestos hazards are appropriately controlled.

Laws about disclosing asbestos in homes

There are different legal requirements for people selling or tenanting their home.

Selling a property

In NSW there is no law that requires a seller to disclose whether a home contains asbestos - it is a "buyer beware" situation. Council's advice is that if your house was built before the 1980s, it should be checked for loose-fill asbestos. A standard building report does not generally provide this information. You should specifically request that the building report include information on the presence of asbestos or separately obtain a specialist report.

Renting/tenanted properties

There are no legal requirements to disclose the presence of asbestos if a residential property is tenanted out. Council's advice is that property owners and agents should inform any tenants or occupiers of the presence of asbestos and address any potential asbestos hazards where appropriate

The Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011 states that the person conducting a business or an undertaking in a building constructed before 31 December 2003 must identify if there is any asbestos in that building. All commercial properties that contain asbestos must have and maintain a current asbestos register and asbestos management plan.

Containing the risk of asbestos

Who can help?

To keep asbestos contained in buildings where it is present:

  • residents and trades people should not enter the roof space or subfloor area
  • all manholes should be sealed and be labelled with signs indicating the presence of asbestos
  • all cracks in walls and ceilings should be sealed to prevent entry of asbestos fibres into the living areas
  • any wall or ceiling vents or openings should be sealed, and any exhaust fans which discharge into the roof space should be disconnected and sealed
  • any electrical, plumbing or other work in the roof space must be carried out by a qualified contractor, using approved personal and respiratory protection equipment, and observing safe work practices prescribed by WorkCover
  • no demolition, alteration or construction work should be carried out until the asbestos has been removed by a contractor holding a current friable (Class A) asbestos removal licence issued by NSW WorkCover Authority
  • the local Fire Brigade and Emergency Services should be notified of all premises that contain loose asbestos roof insulation.

Find out more

  • Find a qualified asbestos inspector and tradesperson by searching for 'Asbestos Removal & Treatment' on the Yellow Pages or on WorkCover's website.
  • Visit the WorkCover website for a fact sheet, questions and answers.
  • Phone WorkCover's Information Centre on 131 050.

For media enquiries, please phone the Loose Fill Asbestos Insulation Taskforce's Media Services Provider, Steve Norris, on 02 4321 4366 or 0434 568 040 or via email to steve.norris@srwsd.nsw.gov.au