Over the last few years we have seen a number of examples of gaskets with a modern appearance that contain asbestos. These materials are most commonly associated with hot water reticulation pipework, boilers, generators, gas installations and workshops servicing heavy machinery.
Asbestos containing gaskets (not labelled as asbestos containing) were still available for purchase in the New Zealand market during 2016 and older stocks may still be being sold now.
New Zealand banned the importation of asbestos containing materials on October 1 2016, which is a considerable amount of time after the ban on importation of raw asbestos in 1984 (brown and blue asbestos) and 1999 (white asbestos). This means that asbestos gaskets have been imported into the country, since the ban, despite many people’s assumptions that modern products do not contain asbestos.
The New Zealand Customs Service is unable to easily differentiate at the border between items that do or do not contain asbestos. Therefore, it is possible that asbestos gaskets will still come into the country, particularly on machinery, from time to time.
Exposure to asbestos poses a risk of respiratory disease and is currently the single biggest cause of work-related fatalities, responsible for the deaths of around 170 people a year.
Please do remain vigilant for asbestos gasket materials that are both stored and available for purchase. Check specifications and if in doubt, get them tested for asbestos.