Planning and Development

Asbestos was long viewed as one of the most versatile minerals because of its flexibility, tensile strength, insulation from heat and electricity, chemical inertness and affordability.

The versatility of asbestos made it attractive to many industries and is thought to have more than 3000 applications worldwide. Australia was one of the highest users per capita in the world up until the mid-1980s. Approximately one third of all homes built in Australia contain asbestos products. The widespread use of asbestos has left a deadly legacy of asbestos material.

Asbestos containing materials (ACMs) can be categorised as friable and non-friable. Non-friable asbestos, where it is mixed with other materials like cement, is the type most commonly found in our built environment. Friable asbestos is more likely to become airborne. 

Both friable and non-friable asbestos pose a significant health risk to all workers and others if the materials are not properly maintained or removed carefully. In the built environment, potential health risks are posed where there is:

  • the presence of ambient levels of asbestos
  • weathering of ACMs
  • the presence of damaged ACMs
  • building and/or maintenance work involving ACMs and
  • demolition and/or removal of ACMs.

The risk of exposure from the built environment is broad, with the potential to impact the entire Australian community. 

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