Asbestos is a form of silica mineral fiber which is categorized in the serpentine and amphibole groups of rock-forming minerals, including:
- Amosite (brown asbestos, cummingtonite, grunerite)
- Chrysotile (white asbestos)
- Crocidolite (blue asbestos)
- Or any mixtures containing at least one of these minerals.
Asbestos can be obtained using various underground mining methods, but the most common one is through an open-pit mining. Asbestos types are categorised based on their chemical properties and physical properties which also depend on other components of the stone, such as calcium, magnesium or iron.
Chrysotile (white): Asbestos fibres tend to be white in colour and have smooth, smooth textures.
Crocidolite (blue): Asbestos fibres are bright blue, usually shorter, erect and less smooth than chrysotile.
Amosite (brown): fibres tend to be brown with more brittle fibres than either crocidolite or chrysotile.
Asbestos is still widely being used for house roofing. Many people in the village don’t know the dangers of asbestos which are used as roof/canopy. Asbestos enters the body by inhalation. Long term inhalation of asbestos can pose a deadly health risk.
The impact from inhaling asbestos fibres can not be seen in a short time frame. Sometimes the symptoms will appear within 20-30 years after the exposure to the first asbestos fibres.
Asbestos fibres can cause asbestosis (the occurrence of scar tissue in the lungs), lung cancer and mesothelioma (cancer in the Mesothelium membrane). The risk of this disease will increase due to the large amount inhalation of asbestos fibres.
Also, the risk of lung cancer caused by inhalation of asbestos fibres is greater than cigarette smoke. This is because asbestos consists of small fibres that are easily separated, so if the fibres are airborne and inhaled will be harmful to the body health.
Usually, this asbestos fibre can pose a health risk if it entered into the body through inhalation. Small amounts of asbestos fibres in the air that a person breathes while breathing will not cause any pain. Mostly people only inhales asbestos in very small amounts and cause low risk to the health hazard.
Some studies have shown that asbestos-shaped sheets do not show significant impact on health risks. People who work in mining or industry are at high risk of getting health problems due to asbestos. But that does not mean asbestos house roofing is not dangerous at all.
Different forms of asbestos material create different levels of health risks. If asbestos fibres are in a stable form such as sheets and the condition is still good, then the health risks are small. However, if the sheets have been damaged, hollow or false in the case of their use, then higher risks may occur.
Asbestos building materials are used as cement sheets (fibro), drainage, chimney pipes, house roofing or other building boards. Since the 1960s and 1970s, asbestos fibres are widely used by the public as the roof of the house.
Apparently based on research, this asbestos material is harmful to health because the inhaled dust can not be dissolved. This dust can kill cells in the lungs which may lead to cancer. Because of this reason, the use of asbestos material has been banned in Australia.
Testing for asbestos
Where goods are sampled and tested for asbestos content, testing certification (also called a laboratory testing report) must be provided to the ABF. Goods being imported can be tested prior to the importation by a laboratory in Australia or overseas.
Importers, who wish to have their goods tested in Australia, prior to importation, must first seek permission from the Minister of Employment to import sample for analysis purposes, through the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency (ASEA). Once the permission has been granted, importers must then organise sampling and testing. The samples must be from the actual shipment to be imported. The testing must be undertaken by an Australian testing laboratory that is accredited by the National Association of Testing Authorities (NATA).
Details of NATA accredited laboratories in Australia are available at: National Association Testing Authorities, Australia.
Where the testing is carried out overseas, prior to shipping to Australia, certification must be from an overseas testing laboratory accredited by the NATA equivalent testing authority in that overseas economy. The local testing authority must be a signatory to a Mutual Recognition Arrangement (MRA) with NATA.
Importers seeking certification from suitably accredited testing laboratories outside Australia are advised to check the following information prior to engaging a laboratory:
- is the laboratory accredited by a NATA recognised equivalent through a Mutual Recognition Arrangement (MRA) for the test required?
- is the laboratory’s Scope of Accreditation still valid and in date at the time of testing?
The certification must be provided to a Collector in writing and must:
- demonstrate the testing laboratory had a valid scope of accreditation for the testing of asbestos in bulk samples at the time the testing took place
- demonstrate the samples tested have been drawn from the actual shipment of goods.
Direct supervision and documentation of this process in the supplier country will assist to confirm the source of the samples.
Information on overseas testing can be found at Asbestos Watch Brisbane, Certified and Credible Asbestos Testing in Brisbane.