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Combating Asbestos Exposure

Asbestos is a unique mineral. It's fibrous, heat resistant and has high tensile strength. It has been used since Roman times. Three types of asbestos have been mined commercially: white asbestos (Chrysotile), brown asbestos (Amosite) and blue asbestos (Crocidolite).

Asbestos was widely used in a variety of products in Australia until recent times. It was used primarily in insulation and building products until the mid-1980s, and brake linings containing asbestos were available in Australia until 2001. The use of asbestos in building products was so common that any home built before 1984 would have some building products containing asbestos, if only in the eaves linings. In the 1950s and 1960s, it was common for entire houses to be built from asbestos cement sheets. Asbestos was also used in vinyl tiles, carpet underlay, office air conditioning systems, cigarette and wine filters, adhesives, gaskets, theatre curtains, a range of protective clothing and even Christmas decorations.

When asbestos fibre becomes airborne (for example, through cutting or breaking fibro sheeting) and is inhaled, it can cause lung disease as many asbestos fibres are lodged in the lung and remain there. There are four basic types of asbestos disease: • Benign pleural disease; • Asbestosis; • Lung cancer; and • Mesothelioma