The use, sale and storage of all forms of asbestos was banned in Australia in 2004.  The use of asbestos products in Australia was in steady decline since the mid-1980s.

Prior to mid 1980’s, asbestos was used as a component in an extraordinarily wide variety of products found in both the workplace and the home.

Products and materials which contained asbestos included:

  • Asbestos cement sheets (“fibro”), often used in walls and roofing. James Hardie was the primary manufacturer of these products, although a second company, Wunderlich, also manufactured and supplied through most of Australia until about 1977.
  • Asbestos cement moulded products. These products included corrugated sheets (used in roofs and fences), as well as cladding sheets, cover strips and pipes, etc. Telecom pits were also a form of an asbestos cement moulded product.
  • Insulation materials. Asbestos was used an insulation material around boilers and steam (hot water) pipes.  This was generally done with preformed insulation materials, asbestos rope which was wound around or loose form insulation which was mixed with water and applied like plaster.
  • Fire proofing spray. Many buildings (and ships) used asbestos spray to fire proof structures.  It was commonly sprayed on steel girders and the underside of concrete slabs.
  • Clothing and materials to help people working with heat. These products included asbestos gloves, mats, blankets, aprons and other items.
  • Fire doors, and fire retardants. Sheets of asbestos were inserted in doors, around fuse boxes and around stoves to minimise the risks of fire spreading.
  • Brake linings and clutches. Asbestos was used in friction products, mainly brake linings until 2004.
  • A huge range of other building and industrial products including as a component in vinyl tiles, in ceiling sprays, in paints and ropes.

However, exposure to products containing asbestos does not generally create a risk, and will not will lead to the development of an asbestos related disease such as mesothelioma or asbestosis.

Rather, asbestos becomes a risk to health if the fibres are dislodged from the product and inhaled.  Asbestos products in which the asbestos is not bonded and where the fibres can be dislodged and breathed in are dangerous.  That is why activities such as drilling or cutting fibro sheets is so dangerous.

Because asbestos related diseases usually develop at least 30 years after initial exposure, it is important to be aware of the risk and have regular health checks if you think you may have once been exposed to asbestos fibres.

If you do develop an illness because of exposure to asbestos you may have a right to bring a claim, for example against your former employer or the manufacturer of the asbestos product, and receive compensation.

If you think you may have a claim relating to exposure to asbestos, please get in touch by email tanya@segelovtaylor.com.au or by phone (02) 8880 0500.

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