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The following article is a general news item provided for the benefit of members. Its contents do not necessarily reflect the views of the Safety Institute of Australia.
Date: 
Tuesday, 11 December, 2018 - 16:00
Category: 
Policy & legislation
Location: 
Northern Territory

WorkSafe NT recently issued a safety alert regarding the possible presence of asbestos in Bunsen burner gauze mats with ceramic centres, commonly used in laboratories.

Tremolite asbestos has been identified in the ceramic centre of Bunsen burner gauze mats in New Zealand and the United Kingdom.

Preliminary testing in Australia indicates that gauze mats with ceramic centres may also contain asbestos and additional testing is underway to confirm this.

The gauze mats are not branded, making visual identification of mats, potentially containing asbestos extremely difficult.

Any asbestos fibres present will be bonded into the ceramic centre and the risk of fibre release is extremely low if the gauze mats have been used normally.

However, if the ceramic centre is damaged or deteriorating with age, the exposure risk to any asbestos will increase.

The alert said there are a number of required actions:

  • Bunsen burner gauze mats with ceramic centres should be treated as containing asbestos and disposed of appropriately.
  • Mats can only be kept for use if:
    • your supplier provides you with documentation showing the mats have been appropriately tested and are asbestos free; or
    • You send a mat for testing at a National Association of Testing Authorities, Australia (NATA) accredited laboratory that complies with ISO/IED:17025. Mats can only be used if the test results are negative for asbestos.

Products containing asbestos are banned in Australia due to the potential health risks from asbestos fibres and importing and using products containing asbestos is prohibited.

In terms of handling and disposal, the safety alert also made a number of recommendations:

  • If the ceramic centres of the gauze mats are damaged or are deteriorating:
    • Fill a spray bottle with water and add a few drops of detergent;
    • Set the spray bottle to a fine mist to wet the gauze mats to reduce the possible release of fibres.
  • As a precaution against potentially sharp corners, place the mats in a rigid sealable plastic container, before putting the sealed container into a 200µm (0.2mm) thick plastic asbestos waste bag.
  • Wipe up any excess water with a damp rag, including the storage area of the gauze mats.
  • Rags should only be used once, although you can refold the rag to expose a clean surface.
  • Dispose the rag in the asbestos waste bag.
  • Close the bag by twisting tightly and fold the neck over (goose necking) before taping shut with adhesive tape.
  • Clearly label the bag as containing asbestos and contact a licensed asbestos removalist for disposal.
  • Follow the same packaging procedures if you are sending a sample to a NATA accredited laboratory for testing.