Asbestos is the commercial product, obtained after mining and processing, of a family of fibrous hydrated silicates divided mineralogically into amphiboles (amosite, anthrophyllite and crocidolite) and serpentines (chrysotile).
The inhalation of asbestos particles can cause asbestosis, pleural plaques, pleural fibrosis, pleural effusion, mesothelioma and lung cancer.
Asbestos was widely used in Australia between 1945 and 1980. The characteristics that made asbestos popular were its strength, sound absorption, insulating properties and resistance to damage from heat and fire, electricity and chemicals. Asbestos mining ceased in 1983 and its use was phased out in 1989 and banned in 2004.
Occupational exposure occurs in workers involved in mining asbestos or the production or use of asbestos products. For example, in occupations related to mining, plumbing, electrical or construction material. Occupational exposure may also extend secondarily to the family members of those in close contact with asbestos in the workplace.
Asbestos exposure may occur in the home through, for example, exposure to housing construction material.
Examples of products using asbestos:
- fibro cement insulation
- fireproofing pipes
- floor coverings
- ceiling tiles
- roofing materials
- fire-smothering blankets
- safety garments
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