What is Asbestos?

What is Asbestos and What Does
Asbestos Look Like?

Asbestos is a highly heat-resistant fibrous silicate mineral that can be woven into fabrics and used in fire-resistant and insulating materials. It was widely used in the building industry from the 1940s to the late 1980s.

Why is it dangerous?

Asbestos is a health risk if it becomes airborne.

Asbestos is a fibrous material that, when broken, easily breaks down into very small microfibers of 4 µm or less. When these invisible fibres are airborne (friable) they are easily inhaled and become lodged deep in the lungs, causing fibrosis (scarring) of the lung, resulting in a slow painful death for which there is no current cure.
Here in New Zealand, approximately 150 people died each year of asbestos related conditions between 1999 and 2010.

The 2013 Ministry of Innovation and Business report – Work Related Disease in New Zealand stated:

“We estimate that at least 170 people died in 2010 from asbestos-related diseases, including the cancers’ mesothelioma and lung cancer and the respiratory disease asbestosis. The number of mesothelioma death’s have increased dramatically since 1999. While preventative measures are too late for this wave of asbestos-related death’s, this data is a timely reminder of the toll of exposure to asbestos. It also reinforces the need to ensure present-day exposure to asbestos is prevented.”

Asbestos in the workplace

If asbestos is found stop work immediately – advise others.

New regulations and industry standard’s were implemented on 4 April 2016. These new regulations have a significant impact on everyone, including people in control of a workplace and those who undertake any work involving asbestos. Fines of up to $40,000 are now imposed for failure to test a substance for asbestos prior to work commencing.

People in control of a place of work need to:

  • Prepare an asbestos register
  • Arrange for an asbestos survey of their workplace to be undertaken by an accredited organisation,
  • Keep the survey at the workplace
  • Provide this information to those who occupy the premises and those who may carry out work that may disturb asbestos.

Identifying non-friable asbestos

Non-friable asbestos is asbestos that under ordinary circumstances cannot be easily crumbled. These are generally materials where the asbestos fibres are bonded using a cement, bituminous or resin matrix.
Any disturbance of non-friable asbestos will cause the material to become friable. If there is any doubt, you should treat the asbestos as friable.

Identifying friable asbestos

If you suspect you may have friable asbestos product in or around your home or workplace, call Advanced Environmental Services immediately. If in doubt, we will safely extract a sample and send it to an independent laboratory for analysis.