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What You Should Know about Asbestos

All that we know about asbestos is mostly about diseases related to it. But, are you fully informed of ‘what is asbestos’?

Asbestos is a naturally materialised fibrous mineral. Its original word is from Greek word “ἄσβεστος” which means unquenchable or inextinguishable. The term refers to six groups of mineral categorised into two, Amphibole and Serpentine.

What is the difference between amphibole and serpentine? Both are equally dangerous, but the difference is in its appearance. Amphibole appears to be a straight, thin and needle-like fibres. Amphibole consists of five members including amosite, crocidolite, tremolite, actinolite and anthophyllite. While serpentine appears to be curly and it only has one member, chrysotile.


About Asbestos - Melbourne-min


Types of Asbestos

This fibrous material has two categories: friable and non-friable or also known as bonded asbestos. Although they both posses risk to health, there is a difference among those two.

  1. Friable refers to the fibrous material that can be crushed or pulverised or even be reduced to power when it is dry by the power of hand. It also can get airborne. Among the example of friable products are:
  • Boiler insulation
  • Pipe lagging
  • Sprayed insulation
  • Fire retardant material on steel work


  1. Non-friable of bonded refers to a material that is quite solid and composed of a mixture of cement and a little quantity of asbestos, the range is around 10 – 15% of the total production, and it is not likely to get airborne. The examples of this type include:
  • Asbestos cement (AC) moulded products
  • AC sheet
  • Vinyl floor tiles
  • Bitumen-based waterproofing


The Initial Use of Asbestos

So, when did people in Australia begin to use this material? The friable products were known and used in the commercial and industrial settings just before the late 1800s. Both industry and commercial properties used this substance because it has good quality for soundproofing, fireproofing and insulation, Even residential buildings used this substance as materials for the building construction. It was applied to houses that were built pre-1990.

Australia began to produce AC materials in around 1920s. It continued to be used for housing material for construction industries until the end of the 1980s.


Asbestos in Melbourne

Another scandal of this fibrous material besides Wittenoom is the Wunderlich factory. It is said to be the worst tragedy related to the fibrous material since Wittenoom.

Originally, the owner of Wunderlich factory was the German Wunderlich brothers. CSR Ltd operated the factory starting from 1969 to 1977, and later they sold the factory to James Hardie. The factory produced AC roofing and wall-siding in Sunshine North for 55 years. The land of a total 5 acres was covered in waste asbestos-containing material (ACM) dust and broken sheeting that was located in the back of the Wunderlich factory for 20 years since the 1950s. The effect of the presence of this factory to the people living in the surrounding areas is devastating. Dozens of people who lived nearby the former Wunderlich factory that is Melbourne’s west have developed asbestosis, cancer, and other conditions subsequent to the ACM that was left unsafe at the site.

In the mid-1980s, Australia banned the import or use of brown and blue asbestos including the product. Exactly in December 2003, the full ban on use, reuse, manufacture, transport, sale or storage of all types of ACMs was finally implemented.


The Effect of ACMs

The ACM has caused many deadly diseases. They include asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma. How can this fibrous material affect your health? The ACM can affect your body when you are exposed to its dangerous fibres. If the airborne fibres are inhaled, they will enter your respiratory system. Due to the rigidness of the fibres, once they are inhaled, they can hardly leave the body. Instead, they reside in the respiratory system and prompt extreme hazardous diseases.

For smokers, you need to be more careful because your chance of being infected with the lung cancer is higher if you are being exposed to these fibres.


Locations of Asbestos at Home

Where can you find asbestos at your house? Everywhere. If your house was built before 1990, you can find them in your living room, kitchen, roof, bathroom, bedroom even your garage and a kennel.

What kind of products that are possible to be found? It is estimated that there are 3000 products of asbestos. Houses built in the mid of the 1980s are highly likely to be installed with various products of ACMs. Unless your house was built after 1990, there is no way that your house can escape from ACM products.

Among the possible product of this fibrous material that you can find in your houses are:

  • Wall cladding
  • Roofing
  • Fencing
  • Eaves
  • Flue or water pipes
  • Thermal boards around fireplaces
  • Low-density asbestos fibre board
  • Spray-on insulation or soundproofing
  • Floor tiles and vinyl flooring backing
  • Insulation on hot-water pipes, stoves and domestic heaters
  • Decorative ceiling coatings, textured paints
  • Carpet underlay
  • Fire damaged or hail, or extremely weathered AC materials
  • Filler, brick and plaster sealant, and some adhesive products


About Asbestos - Melbourne (2)-min


Identification of ACMs

To be sure whether or not a house contains fibrous products either you can check the age of the house or for further assurance you can do testing. By doing the testing, all the locations and types of ACMs installed in a house can be identified.

The initial step is by collecting samples of suspected materials from the house then the collected samples need to be sent to a NATA accredited laboratory. The result is documented in a registry. The registry later will be very useful is you are required to established an asbestos management plan (AMP).


How to Manage the Identified Fibrous Material

If your house is detected with a fibrous material, you need to manage this dangerous substance by establishing an AMP. The AMP is very helpful for those people who manage or control a building containing fibrous materials. It helps them to prevent the occupiers from being exposed to this dangerous material. However, for houses or buildings built after December 31, 2003, it will not be required to have one. 

The AMP must:

  • Identify the ACM location.
  • Compose of a decision, and argument for the decision regarding the management of ACMs at the place.
  • Outline the mechanism for any emergencies and incidents that involve ACMs.
  • Be kept updated.
  • Be reviewed.
  • Be possible to be accessed by the related people.


The Right Time for Removal

Once the result of the test confirmed the presence of any fibrous product in your house, the next step is getting rid of them. To do the removal, you need to engage a licensed removalist. Removal is the safest and long lasting solution for your problem with material containing dangerous fibres. Repair is an only temporary solution. Be sure to check the removalist you hire has an accredited class A or B licence and has followed enough training.


Where and How to Dispose of ACMs

You cannot dispose of asbestos waste carelessly because it can cause a health risk. You have to double packed, seal and label the package before sending it to the legal landfill.

A landfill is categorised into commercial and domestic. A domestic is a small amount of ACMs produced by householders performing a DIY. A commercial is only able to accept ACMs from industrial or commercial sources.

Note: asbestos that is not correctly packaged will not be received by any landfill.

Following are some landfills that can accept asbestos in Victoria.



  • Benalla
  • Alexandra
  • Fingal
  • Drysdale
  • Grantville


Commercial and Domestic

  • Brooklyn
  • Bowser
  • Campbells Creek
  • Bulla
  • Dooen


For more info about the landfill, check here.

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