Why was asbestos banned in Australia?

What is asbestos

Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral. It forms part of six naturally occurring silicate minerals. All are composed of long and thin fibrous crystals, each fiber being composed of many microscopic ‘fibrils’ that can be released into the atmosphere by abrasion and other processes.

Asbestos was once used in our homes, structures, buildings, roofs, fences, pipes and more because it is strong, it insulates well from heat and electricity and was deemed affordable.

Common uses for asbestos

Asbestos had many uses, this naturally occurring mineral was an excellent electric insulator making it useful as insulation in electrical wiring in homes, factories, office buildings and more.

Asbestos was great at resisting heat and was commonly used in fire retardant coating for steel girders in buildings, thermal insulation for homes and offices, heat resistant gaskets and packing materials.

As a building material is was strong and flexible and was widely used throughout the world in roofing and flooring compounds, asbestos cement, drywall and plaster.

In certain parts of the world, as cars became more common its use in asphalt on roads was deemed appropriate for making roads more durable.

Health risks associated with asbestos

Records indicate that as early as 1897 an Austrian doctor referred to pulmonary troubles in one of his patients caused by asbestos dust. The first documented death of an asbestos worker was in 1906, the 33 year old male’s autopsy revealed large amounts of asbestos fibers in his lungs.

Reports of asbestos workers dying from “asbestosis” flooded news papers across the globe. Even insurance companies began decreasing coverage and benefits, while increasing premiums.

Exposure to asbestos is considered dangerous and working with asbestos has been proven to cause serious health issues. Studies have shown that exposure to asbestos causes malignant mesothelioma in humans and tumors in animals.

Asbestos use seized in Australia

Asbestos was mined in great quantities in Australia, the mining of asbestos created many jobs for Australians. Asbestos was mined until the mid-1980’s. Australia had one of the highest rates of asbestos use in the world.

After the discovery that asbestos is not viable for use in that it creates a health risk it was decided by government to ban the use of this hazardous substance.

The most efficient way to eliminate asbestos related disease is to stop the use of asbestos and remove it in a safe manner that will not impact surrounding humans, animals or property. Replacing asbestos solutions with safer substitutes should be regarded as high priority.

Asbestos was finally banned in Australia on the 31st of December 2003.