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Asbestos was typically used in building materials until the late 1980s. However, asbestos exposure has been globally linked to various health issues. As such, you may need to know more about asbestos and its use. For instance, you may ask: “What is commercial asbestos known as?”

You can get an answer to this question here. Furthermore, you can learn about asbestos, its various forms and types, the risks of asbestos exposure, and asbestos-related diseases. Moreover, this post considers asbestos regulations and management, sources of information, and getting help from asbestos removalists.

What is Asbestos?

Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral with high resistance to fire and high temperatures. As a result, it became a preferred choice of building material. It was used in building products such as cement sheeting, floor tiles, asbestos cement production, pipe insulation, and roofing.

Chrysotile asbestos is the most prevalent used form or type of asbestos. It takes up to a 90 to 95 per cent share in the amount of asbestos used in buildings in some countries. In addition, It has a variety of other uses, which includes asbestos insulation and product fireproofing.

In addition, chrysotile asbestos is highly resistant to heat. The fibres are flexible and can be easily woven into fabric. This makes chrysotile asbestos the second most popular form, with amosite asbestos being the first, as it has excellent commercial relevance.

Forms of Asbestos

Asbestos is a group of unique, naturally occurring minerals belonging to the serpentine and amphibole classification. These minerals include chrysotile, amosite, crocidolite, anthophyllite, tremolite and actinolite. In other words, naturally occurring asbestos may include the following mineral silicate fibres:

Chrysotile asbestos

This is a naturally occurring mineral silicate fibre in the serpentine asbestos series. It’s also known as ‘white asbestos’. Some places include chrysotile asbestos mined in Quebec, Canada and South Africa.

Amosite asbestos

Amosite, also known as brown asbestos, is one of the five amphibole minerals generally described as commercial asbestos. Exposure to amosite asbestos may pose higher cancer risks compared to chrysotile asbestos.

Crocidolite asbestos

Crocidolite, or blue asbestos, is the second of the five amphibole minerals. This type of asbestos has extremely thin fibres that easily lodge in lung tissues.

Actinolite, anthophyllite, and tremolite asbestos

Actinolite asbestos, anthophyllite asbestos, and tremolite asbestos are the remaining three in the amphibole sequence in the asbestos group of minerals. Anthophyllite asbestos is a rare type of asbestos without a long history of commercial use.

You may not regard tremolite and actinolite asbestos as commercial forms of asbestos. This is because rather than including them in products, manufacturers simply extract traces of them when mining other minerals.

Asbestiform minerals

Typically, silicate minerals with poly-filamentous bundles can be referred to as ‘asbestos’ or ‘asbestiform minerals’. The fibres are incredibly flexible, with a considerable length and relatively small diameter.

Types of Asbestos

Asbestos can either be friable or non-friable.

Non-friable asbestos

Non-friable asbestos (bonded asbestos) is not considered a health hazard unless one disturbs their fibres. You should note that non-friable asbestos products can become friable if they get damaged or face bad weather. They are solid products; examples include asbestos cement sheeting and pipe insulation.

Friable asbestos

Friable asbestos appears in powdered or crushed form. They are pretty easy to inhale. You can easily crush friable asbestos products with your hand. More importantly, they contain high levels of asbestos fibres that can quickly become airborne.

Types of Buildings that Contain Asbestos

A building that was built before the mid-1980s likely contains asbestos. Examples of asbestos-containing materials in commercial buildings include the following:

  • Corrugated roofing
  • Plant room areas such as water pipes and electrical boards
  • Areas around water pipes, water heaters, and electrical boards
  • Vinyl sheet flooring and ceramic tile sheeting
  • Sewer pipes, fencing, and drain traps

Health Risks of Asbestos Exposure

Asbestos exposure increases the risk of developing asbestos-related diseases. These health effects from asbestos exposure arise due to airborne asbestos release. When you inhale asbestos dust or particles, they can become trapped in the lungs and cause respiratory and other asbestos-related diseases.

Various organisations that provide estimates of the number of workers with potential asbestos exposure in Australia include the following:

Asbestos Related Diseases

At one time, Australia had the highest per capita usage of asbestos globally. Thus, it shouldn’t surprise you that Australia has a high incidence rate of asbestos-related diseases.

Moreover, the use of asbestos-containing products was only banned in 2003. Consequently, quite a number of commercial and residential buildings still contain asbestos.

Some examples of asbestos-related diseases include the following:

  • Mesothelioma
  • Lung cancer
  • Ovarian cancer
  • Larynx cancer

Malignant mesothelioma

Mesothelioma can be described as a cancer of the lung lining. In Australia, around 700 to 800 people are diagnosed with mesothelioma. Furthermore, over 4000 people die each year from asbestos exposure.

Although rare, some malignant mesothelioma cases, such as pleural and peritoneal mesotheliomas, occur due to asbestos exposure. Interestingly, a mesothelioma outbreak in a crocidolite mining region in South Africa was the first reported association of asbestos exposure with mesothelioma.

Asbestos exposure and cancer

Studies using asbestos samples reveal an association between asbestos exposure and cancer of the lung, pharynx, and diffuse malignant mesothelioma. Specifically, the evidence sufficiently indicates the carcinogenicity of all forms of asbestos in relation to asbestos exposure.

For instance, the phagocytosis of crystalline silica (quartz) or asbestos fibres can trigger the production of reactive oxygen and nitrogen species. Biochemical studies show that this can ultimately result in the development of cancer with associated persistent inflammation.

While most mesotheliomas seem to be due to asbestos exposure, little evidence links asbestos exposure with increased risks of developing cancers of the stomach.

Meanwhile, several leading health agencies have classified all types of asbestos as substances that can cause cancer. These agencies include the following:

Occupational Asbestos Exposure

The risks of occupational asbestos exposure increase with certain types of jobs. Although all asbestos mining in Australia stopped in 1983 and the manufacturing of asbestos products became banned in 2003, you need to be careful of the following job types even if it was only in the past:

  • Manufacturing of asbestos products
  • Asbestos mine work
  • Production of asbestos products like asbestos cement sheeting

Asbestos registers are necessary to identify and locate asbestos in buildings more efficiently. Such workplace asbestos registers should be kept and maintained.

You need to test a material to confirm if it contains asbestos. IARC monographs are used to study the occupational exposure of asbestos workers to asbestos-containing products.

Asbestos Regulations and Management

Different legislative requirements exist for asbestos management, depending on your state. You can learn more about the requirements for asbestos management from Safe Work Australia by going through the Model Code of Practice. These guidelines help ensure health and safety regarding asbestos in the workplace.

There are four key areas in managing asbestos in commercial buildings. They help address occupational safety and health concerns for asbestos exposure.

  • Asbestos identification: You have to update the asbestos register and management plan. 
  • Identification of risks of asbestos exposure: You can use information from the register and management plan.
  • Implementing control measures for asbestos: Here, you can eliminate, substitute, isolate, and manage the risk. For example, you can implement the use of personal protective equipment.
  • Review of control measures: You have to place effective control measures. This includes updating asbestos registers, keeping records, and notifying WorkSafe of any exposure.

 Sources of Information on Asbestos Management

  • You can get information on accredited laboratories testing for and identifying asbestos from the National Association of Testing Authorities (NATA)
  • You can also discuss your concerns about workplace asbestos exposure with your employee health and safety representative. They can help evaluate the health effects of asbestos exposure. You can also get advice on steps for controlling asbestos.

Get Help from Asbestos Removal Services

After going through this blog, you should be more asbestos aware. After all, asbestos was not only commercially relevant. It is linked with various respiratory diseases. This makes it that much more urgent for you to quickly invite a professional commercial asbestos removal service if you suspect the presence of asbestos. An asbestos removal service can easily help with asbestos removal and decontamination.