Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral found in the surface of the earth. It contains strong fibres that have excellent durability, fire resistance and insulating properties. Asbestos fibres are 50 to 200 times thinner than a human hair, can float in the air for a long time, can be invisible to the naked eye and can be breathed into the lungs.

The inhalation of asbestos fibers can cause serious illnesses, including mesothelioma and asbestosis.

Asbestos was very common in the Australian building industry between the 1940s and late 1980s due to its resistance to heat, electricity and chemical damage, its sound absorption and tensile strength. Fibers were often mixed with cement or woven into fabric or mats. Asbestos has been used in brake shoes and gaskets for its heat resistance, as an electrical insulation at elevated temperature, and in buildings for its flame-retardant and insulating properties.

Asbestos is banned in many countries. Since 31 December 2003 there has been an Australia-wide ban on all new uses of asbestos and materials containing asbestos . This ban does not apply to asbestos installed prior to this date.

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