Asbestos material is the fibrous form of mineral silicates belonging to the serpentine and amphibole groups of rock-forming minerals. The most significant types include chrysotile, crocidolite and amosite (white, brown or blue asbestos). In Australia more chrysotile than amphibole was mined until 1939. In 1937 mining commenced at Wittenoom, Western Australia and crocidolite was then the predominant material until closure of the mine in 1966. Some imports were made from Canada and South Africa. Consumption of asbestos peaked in 1975. Asbestos is the binding material used in many products. The material was so good that it was used in over 3,000 products in and around the home and to a small degree, in cars.
In the past, exposure to asbestos was very high on some industries and jobs, particularly those working in and around the asbestos mines. Tradesmen working with and installing the material were also exposed to asbestos, but to a lesser degree than those that worked in and around the mines. Many of these tradespeople that have had prolonged exposure to working with asbestos materials are also at risk.
It is now still not known what is a safe level of exposure. For this reason it is important that each householder and commercial premises have asbestos identified so that safe handling procedures can be followed.