Understanding The Impact of the Asbestos Epidemic

Asbestos is a natural mineral that is mined from rock and made up of lots of tiny fibres. It was a building material commonly used Australia wide before the 2000s. Asbestos is made of needle thin fibres, that when compounded together create a strong resistance to high temperatures, is flexible, insulating, and holds great strength. The fibres of asbestos are actually soft and fluffy in consistency, but are resistant to corrosion, electricity and heat.

Asbestos is not actually a single material that is mined but a group of materials and minerals that have the same nature in the fibres and bond together to make asbestos. It can be divided into three groups by colour – white asbestos (chrysotile), blue asbestos (crocidolite) and brown asbestos (amosite). However, asbestos is technically made up of 6 different minerals that are recognised by the EPA. They are Crocidolite, Amosite, Anthophyllite, Tremolite, Actinolite – these are all Amphibole asbestos minerals. And Chrysotile – which is Serpentine asbestos.

These minerals that combine to form asbestos occur naturally all over the world, the main exportation now from Russia, Kazakhstan and China. It has been used as a common material for insulator, cloth, paper, cement, plastic to make them stronger. However, in Australia and many other countries, asbestos and the use of it in construction has been phased out.

When humans are exposed to asbestos and breath the tiny fibres of asbestos materials in, the fibrous material gets trapped in the lungs and cause detrimental health problems. Asbestos related diseases are often deadly, with the exposure of the toxin known to lead to lung cancer, mesothelioma, lung scarring, asbestosis and many other health issues.

Due to the health issues associated with asbestos handling, the product was completely banned in Australia in 2003. However, many houses and buildings that were built before then (and some after) will contain asbestos and it can be incredibly hard to detect the safety of the building without the help of a professional asbestos technician.

In terms of building products and materials, there are now two types of asbestos when analysing a building. Because of the properties of asbestos, they were either described as friable or non-friable.

Friable asbestos, when dry, is powdery in texture and can be easily crushed or broken into powder with little force. Friable asbestos is more harmful for humans as in powder form the fibres of asbestos are released into the air and become airborne – making it easy to get into the lungs of anyone around and cause potential health issues.

Non-friable asbestos is when the asbestos is still bonded or solid. It can’t be crushed by hand and the asbestos has been mixed with another compound and is often not as harmful as it hasn’t become airborne and the fibres of asbestos aren’t in the air.Asbestos professionals GBAR Asbestos Removal Sydney advise keeping an eye on known asbestos materials as, if the non-friable asbestos materials become damaged or are sawn or cut, it will then become friable and pose a threat to the environment surrounding.

Asbestos cannot be seen by the naked eye and it’s important to have a home well inspected and analysed by an asbestos technician before commencing any renovations or DIY removals. Asbestos professionals are able to send samples for testing and remove the asbestos products to ensure safety for the entire family.