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Asbestos products

Asbestos is a mineral that was used in Australia in a variety of ways. While asbestos continues to be used in many parts of the third world (and is still mined in Canada), its use stopped in Australia for everything but brake linking during the 1980s, and from brake linings in 2003.

There are three main forms of asbestos fibre including crocidolite (blue); amosite (brown) and chrysotile (white) asbestos. The first two are described as amphibole asbestos while white asbestos is known as serpentine.

Much of the asbestos commercially used in Australia was from South Africa or Canada although large quantities of asbestos were also mined in Australia at Wittenoom in Western Australia (where blue asbestos was mined) and in Northern New South Wales at mines including Baryugil and Barraba.

In terms of danger, crocidolite is considered the most harmful to health due to the needle-like shape of the fibre, followed by amosite and then chrysotile. However, all asbestos is dangerous and there is no “safe” level of exposure. There has been much debate about whether exposure to chrysotile on its own can cause mesothelioma but the latest evidence confirms a direct link between chrysotile and mesothelioma.

Case studies

Over the last 25 years Turner Freeman has acted for persons exposed to asbestos at work including asbestos manufacturing workers, navy personnel, laggers, plumbers, electricians, carpenters, shipbuilders, roofers, fitters, boilermakers, riggers, railway workers, waterside workers, pipe layers, mechanics and power station workers as well as those exposed to asbestos as a result of home renovations and washing clothes.


More about asbestos products

Fibro and asbestos cement

Fibro and asbestos cement

Asbestos cement building products, commonly referred to as fibro, were widely used in Australia after World War II. Two out of every three houses constructed in Australia in the period 1945 to 1983 contained asbestos cement sheets. Up until 1983 asbestos cement sheets contained up to 15T asbestos.

Asbestos cement sheets were used as external linings on houses, cottages, garages and car ports, as internal linings, particularly in wet areas such as bathrooms, laundries and kitchens, as eaves or soffits, as roofs, gable ends and fences, as flooring in bathrooms or wet areas and on porches and verandahs.

In New South Wales there were two main manufacturers of asbestos cement sheets, James Hardie & Coy Pty Ltd and Wunderlich Limited.

Popular asbestos cement sheets include Hardiflex flat sheets, Super Six corrugated sheets, Durabestos corrugated sheets, Thick compressed sheets, Tilux (patterned sheets), Versilux, Villaboard, Hardiplank, Shadowline, Coverline and Log Cabin.

Asbestos cement sheets in situ and in good repair to not constitute a danger to health, dust and fibre released from asbestos cement sheets during cutting, sawing, drilling, sanding, rasping or otherwise handling the sheets can be dangerous to health and cause asbestos diseases including asbestosis and mesothelioma.

Insulation and lagging

Insulation and lagging

Up until the 1980s, asbestos was widely used for insulation and sound proofing in Australia.

In many commercial and industrial buildings, power stations and on board ships, asbestos was sprayed as insulation and sound proofing on bulkheads, beams, columns and ceilings.

Hot water and steam pipes were extensively lagged with asbestos insulation, usually in the form of asbestos rope, pre-formed asbestos pipe sections or asbestos composition mixed with water

to form a paste or slurry. Asbestos was also widely used as insulation on furnaces, turbines and boilers in factories, steel works and power stations such as Vales Point, White Bay, Balmain, Munmorah, Wallerawang, Tullawarra and Lake Macquarie. It was also used as insulation on board ships, including ships built and repaired at Cockatoo & Garden Island Dockyards.

Asbestos mats or blankets were used around boilers on locomotives at the Chullora and Eveleigh rail yards. Asbestos blankets were also used as heat protection while welding. Asbestos gloves were widely used as heat protection while welding or handling very hot objects.

Brake linings

Brake linings

Exposure to dust and fibre released from new brake linings, shoes, or clutches when fitting, including chamfering, grinding and rivotting, can cause asbestos diseases such as asbestosis or mesothelioma. Exposure to dust blown out from used brake linings is generally not dangerous to health as the asbestos in the brake linings undergoes a chemical reaction, becoming forsterite, during brake usage.

The two main manufacturers of asbestos brake linings in Australia were Hardie Ferodo and Bendix Mintex.