About Asbestos

Learn The History, Types, Government Guidelines and Removal Procedures

The following was written as a educational resource for customers wanting to learn more about asbestos. We will cover the history, uses in Australia, types of asbestos, health dangers, NSW Government Guidelines as well as common removal procedures. If you would like to learn more about it please contact us directly.

What is asbestos?

Asbestos is a set of 6 silicate minerals that occur in nature and have long and thin fibrous crystals. These minerals were used commercially for their properties. Unfortunately, inhaling asbestos fibers can have dire consequences in that they cause a number of health problems. Some of those health problems include mesothelioma, plural plaques disease, asbestosis, and lung cancer. The longer one is exposed to asbestos, the more likely they are to experience serious illness and even death. Low levels of asbestos occur in the air but are not as harmful. Australia has one of the highest rates of illness due to asbestos exposure in the world.

Australia’s Asbestos Mining Industry

Australia actually manufactured asbestos until 1983. It was a big industry and several industries that made their money mining the substance. Even though it was illegal to manufacture the material in Australia, asbestos was still used in the country until 2002 and was outright banned in 2003. Asbestos became popular among construction companies and builders before it was outlawed due to its positive properties. Asbestos has a natural resistance to heat and fire. As such, the material was commonly used for insulation to keep the heat in and the cold out. It has been mixed with cement, woven in with other materials, used in buildings, and even integrated into wiring for ovens and hotplates.

Australian Asbestos Mining

Up until 1939, Australia mined more chrysotile asbestos than amphibole. New South Wales was the first Australian state to begin mining asbestos. It produced the most chryotile as well as amphibole for some time. Western Australia began mining corcidolite asbestos until the mine was closed in 1966. Australia also had a practice of importing this type of asbestos from Canada and South Africa (and additionally sourced amosite form South Africa). At about 1975, Australia was consuming the most asbestos it had ever used, incorporation about 70 thousand tons a year.

Importing Asbestos to Australia

In addition to producing asbestos, Australia also imported products that contained it from the Federal Republic of Germany, Japan, the United States, and the United Kingdom. These products included fabric, cord, yarn, cement, millboard, gaskets, and more. However, Australia eventually began to phase out the material. Crocidolite was cycled out starting in 1967, amosite stopped in the eighties, and chrysotile was used up until 1987. Australian consumption of asbestos fiber consumption went down and production declined gradually until it was at 60% of what it used to be.

Australian Asbestos Use and Consumption

In the 1950s, Australia consumed enough asbestos to be the 4th leading consumer of asbestos cement in the world (and the first based on per capita). It was used in piping, in cement houses, in insulation, and or multiple other purposes. However, as time went on and the health risks of exposure were gradually unveiled, Australia began to phase out not only its production of the fibrous material, but its consumption and use as well. Australia implemented policies and standards to restrict who was able to work with the mineral. Australia has traditionally used asbestos for buildings, water and sewage piping. Control measures were undertaken when workers were grinding, drilling, and boring to avoid the release of minerals into the air. Because demolishing and renovating buildings also can cause issues, the government requires that training must be distributed to workers who will be coming into contact with this material.

Types of Asbestos

The main types of asbestos belong to the Serpentine and Amphibole families. If you are interested in learning more about the types visit asbestos.com

The Six Types of Asbestos

  • Chrysotile
  • Amosite
  • Crocidolite
  • Tremolite
  • Anthophyllite
  • Actinolite



A member of the serpentine asbestos family, Chrysotile is found in multiple places. It has curly fibers and forms in crystal sheets. It’s the most frequently used  asbestos (used in over 90% of applications) and is used in homes and businesses. You can find it in roofs, walls, floors, and ceilings. Chrysotile asbestos was also used in manufacturing and cars, in pipe insulation, brake linings, boiler seals, and gaskets. Also called ‘white asbestos’, this can still be deadly. However, it typically requires more exposure to develop an illness. It is often found in naturally occurring deposit with small amounts of tremolite asbestos. Although this type is still hazardous, controlled use of chrysotile remains allowed in countries where other varieties are banned.


Amosite is also referred to by its mineral name, grunerite. Exposure to Amosite actually poses a bigger threat of developing cancer and can cause meselthelioma, asbestosis, and lung cancer. This material is used in cement sheets, insulation boards, thermal, plumbing, electrical, and chemical insulation, roofing products, fire protection, gaskets, tiles, and more.


Crocidolite asbestos is also known by the title of “blue asbestos”. It was first discovered in early 19th century South Africa and began being exploited as a resource in the 1900s. Australia, Bolivia, and South Africa were the most prevalent mining sites for Crocidolite.
Crocidolite asbestos has very thin fibers. This means that is inhaled easily and can become stuck in the lungs even more easily than other types of asbestos. Once they are inside the body, the fibers do not break down very eaisly, causing lung and abdominal conditions. According to studies, this type causes more deaths than any other type. Miners of Crocidolite experience about 18% mortality rate from mesothelioma. Those who live near the mines have increased risk for illnesses as well.
Crocidolite has fibers that are curved or straight and can ben dbefore they break. They are also, however, more brittle than other manufactured asbestos. Crocidolite is more likely to break down sooner than other types of asbestos. It is also not as viable for manufacturing due to a lack of heat resistance compared to other varieties. However, it is used for everything from wires, thermal insulation of gaskets and lagging, cement sheets, storage battery casings, chemical insulation, and more.


Tremolite asbestos is commonly used in commercial and industrial products. This is due to its qualities of insulation, strength, flexibility, and heat resistance. It’s used in roofing and plumbing materials, in paints, insulation, and sealant. Made up of magnesium, hydrogen, oxygen, silicon and calcium, Tremolite is green, white, gray, brown, or transparent. It is usually found next to other minerals like talc and vermiculite when being mined. As a result, miners of talc and vermiculite have a higher risk than other miners of developing asbestos-related illness.


This type of asbestos causes disease, but has a lesser risk for causing mesothelioma than other types. Anthophyllite is a rare type of mineral that only began being milled in Finland in the late 19th century. It’s since been mined in North Carolina and Georgia in the United States. Regardless of its lower risk it can still cause mesothelioma and other illnesses. It’s considered noncommercial and has a history of being used in talc and talc related products.


This type of asbestos can appear gray, brown, green, or white. The name comes from “aktinos”, a Greek word that translates to ray or beam. This is a reference to the form of its fibers, which vary from being brittle and fibrous to dense and compact. Actinolite is usually dark in color and used with vermiculite, a mineral that expands in the presence of heat. Made up of calcium, magnesium, iron, silicon, oxygen, and hydrogen, it’s used in concrete construction materials, insulation, gardening, and fire proofing.

Health Dangers of Asbestos

Who Is Most Likely To Be Exposed?

There are many health dangers from being exposed to asbestos. Do it yourself home renovators, those who do repairs, miners, construction workers, insulation installers, and more usually have a high risk for exposure. This can be a risk when the fibers are disturbed and are then inhaled into the lungs. Most of the time, the fibers are going to be broken down by the body and will be removed naturally by coughing. However, when these fibers stick in the lungs, they can cause illness. How great someone’s risk is must take into account the amount of fiber inhaled and how long or frequently they have been exposed. You can also learn more from the NSW Health Department website here.

Asbestos-Related Illnesses

Asbestos-related illnesses can take a long time to develop. Those who have been exposed for long periods of time may go many years before they discover they have developed an asbestos-related disease. Inhalation of the fibers typically causes lung cancer, asbestosis, and mesothelioma. Those who smoke also have a higher risk of developing these diseases. Symptoms of the diseases typically occur 20-30 years after the exposure.

Asbestos exposure can cause:

  • Asbestosis, an inflammatory lung condition that causes coughing, shortness of breath, lung scarring, and breathing difficulties.
  • Mesothelioma, a rare cancer that is found in the lungs or abdomen
  • Lung cancer
  • Lung problems
  • Pleural plaques and effusions

It has been suggested that exposure may also cause other cancers, but this has not been completely proven yet.

New South Wales Government Requirements For Handling Asbestos

Checking with the Authorities

Those who think they have encountered asbestos in bulidings can contact the National Association of Testing Authorities at http://nata.asn.au/ or calling 03 9329 1633. They will instruct you on how to take and send your sample (this does cost money).
The South Wales government recommends that if you believe you are in a building that contains asbestos, contact professional asbestos removal contractors. They will be able to handle it securely, safely, and quickly, and have the knowledge and experience required. You should not try to move asbestos yourself. Contact the WorkCover Authority of New South Wales by going to http://www.workcover.nsw.gov.au/ or calling them at 13 10 50.

Asbestos Removal Procedures

Removing It Yourself

An unlicensed individual may remove asbestos if its area does not exceed 10m2 and the time does not go over one hour in a week period. Although property owners are legally allowed to remove this small amounts themselves, it is not recommended or endorsed by the government. Removal can be dangerous, but if you insist on doing it yourself, there are safety practices and handling rules that you should follow. Removing asbestos can not only put you in danger, but your family and neighbours as well.

Handling Procedures & Equipment

  • Wear personal protective equipment.
  • Double wrap the material you’re removing in strong plastic bags that are labelled clearly saying “Asbestos”.
  • Bring your material, breathing equipment, and protective clothing to a waste centre to be disposed of.
  • Find a council approved site that will dispose the material. There may be a cost to dispose of the waste as well.
  • Place double wrapped waste in the back of a vehicle(a truck or trailer), and make sure the material will not be sliding around or at risk of bouncing or falling out.
  • Alternatively, hire an asbestos removalist or licensed waste removal company to remove your asbestos to be sure you are 100% safe. They will also have the proper equipment and containers for your waste.

No matter what the variety, asbestos can be a nasty material once it gets airborne. If you are working in a home or facility that you believe may have material that contains asbestos, follow safety procedures and wear proper clothing and equipment. The greatest danger of being around asbestos is inhaling it. If you believe you are in an area or place at risk, wear a mask on your face. You don’t want those fibers getting into your lungs and causing serious illness some time down the line. Whether in the home or at the workplace, asbestos is a useful fiber that was only recently discerned to be deadly. Australian government authorities have set down guidelines for handling and removing asbestos for the protection of its citizens. Always be cautious around materials that may contain asbestos and avoid breaking them to be sure you avoid contact.

As always we strongly recommend to contact your nearest asbestos removal company to perform an inspection as they are experienced and qualified and will follow strict health and safety protocols.