Asbestos is the name given to a group of naturally occurring minerals found in rock formations. All forms of asbestos are carcinogenic to humans. Asbestos becomes a potential risk to health if fibres are suspended in air and breathed into the lungs. Exposure to asbestos, including chrysotile, causes cancer of the lung, larynx, and ovaries, and also mesothelioma (a cancer of the pleural and peritoneal linings). Asbestos exposure is also responsible for other diseases such as asbestosis (fibrosis of the lungs), and plaques, thickening and effusion in the pleura.
Whether a person goes on to develop an asbestos-related disease depends on a range of circumstances or exposure factors; for example, the level and duration of exposure, length of time since first exposure, the fibre type, and concurrent exposure to tobacco smoke and other carcinogens.
Asbestos was used in a wide range of building materials and products in Australia up until the late 1980s. The use, import and export of asbestos containing materials was not prohibited in Australia until 2003. Despite this prohibition, some imported products have been found to contain asbestos. Local standards in some countries may classify materials as ‘asbestos free’ where they meet a low level or trace amount of asbestos content. This creates new challenges in managing Australia’s legacy of asbestos use. It also reinforces the need for a dynamic and modern way of tracking identified asbestos, such as the Victorian Government Building Asbestos Register.
There are a number of websites you can visit to learn about asbestos. For more information about: