Asbestos represents a group of six naturally occurring fibrous materials that are composed of thin, needle-like fibers. These fibers are soft and flexible as well as resistant to heat, electricity and corrosion. The name “asbestos” comes from an Ancient Greek word and stands for “unquenchable” or “inextinguishable”. Due to its strength and ability to easily be mined, asbestos material quickly became popular within industrial sector.
With high fire resistance and effective insulation characteristics, asbestos was popular in Australian building industry from 1940s to 1987. Known as one of the highest users of asbestos per capita, Australia featured asbestos in a wide range of building products, including building and construction materials such as flat or corrugated sheeting and cement pipe as well as insulation, floor tiles and adhesives, roofing, textured paints and textiles.
Asbestos can be categorised into two main groups – Serpentine and Amphibole. Serpentine group or Chrysotile asbestos also known as white asbestos is the most common form of asbestos, usually found naturally. It’s used in industrial production typically as cement additive, binding material in sealants and in various types of linoleum and floor tiles. Amphibole asbestos refers to remaining asbestos minerals and contains brown or gray asbestos known as amosite or anthophyllite, blue asbestos called crocidolite, actinolite and tremolite.