Asbestos Overview



While asbestos has been in use for over 2,000 years, its use rose in popularity during the Industrial Revolution in the 1800s when it began to be employed in a variety of building materials for insulation and as a fire retardant. In Australia, the use of asbestos peaked between 1945 and 1980 when it was commonly used in construction and other industries. However, from the 1970s, apprehension mounted as the dangers of asbestos were slowly realised. Consequently, use of asbestos was gradually phased out from 1989 and banned entirely in 2003. Thus, asbestos is still present in many older structures today such as in walls, ceilings, pipes, furnaces, millboard, textured paints, coating materials and floor tiles.




Asbestos is a family of naturally occurring silica compounds (similar to, but not the same as, the silica of window glass and computer chips). There are three commonly available types of asbestos:

  • Chrysotile (white asbestos),
  • Amosite (brown asbestos), and
  • Crocidolite (blue asbestos).


Asbestos can be classified in two ways: bonded or friable. Bonded (or non-friable) asbestos occurs when asbestos fibres are bonded to another material, often by mixing the asbestos with another material such as cement. They are unable to be crumbled, pulverised or reduced to a powder by hand pressure when dry. Bonded asbestos is able to become friable asbestos following fire, hail or illegal water blasting. Over 97% of asbestos containing material in Australia is bonded.  In general, the presence of asbestos  does not pose a health risk if it is bonded and in good condition. On the other hand, friable asbestos includes any material that contains asbestos and is in the form of a powder or can be easily crumbled, pulverised or reduced to a powder by hand pressure when dry. It is when these fibres are released that a health risk develops.


Asbestos Health Dangers


Asbestos must be treated with extreme caution at all times as disturbing asbestos may cause fine asbestos fibres to become airborne. When airborne the fibres can be inhaled and cause lung cancer, mesothelioma and asbestosis. These diseases can eventuate even after an individual is no longer exposed and the delay between first exposure and detection of a disease can be between 25 to 40 years. Asbestos related diseases can be fatal. Consequently, it is always important to have professionals assess the situation before you proceed with any work surrounding asbestos or even suspected asbestos. When dealing with asbestos, you can never be too careful.


Standards/Assessment Criteria


All of ADE’s asbestos related work complies with the following relevant legislation:


  • Work Health And Safety Regulation 2011.
  • Work Health And Safety Act 2011.
  • AS2601 (2001) The Demolition of Structures.
  • NSW Code of Practice: How to Manage and Control Asbestos in the Workplace.
  • NSW Code of Practice: How to Safely Remove Asbestos.
  • Code of Practice for Synthetic Mineral Fibres [NOHSC:2006(1990)].
  • AS4361.1 (1995) Guide to Lead Paint Management. Part 1: Industrial Applications.
  • AS4361.2 (1998) Guide to Lead Paint Management. Part 2: Residential and Commercial Buildings.
  • ANZECC (1997) Identification of PCB-containing Capacitors: An Information Booklet for Electricians and Electrical Contractors.
  • Guidance Note on the Membrane Filter Method for Estimating Airborne Asbestos Fibres [NOHSC: 3003(2005)]
  • Code of Practice for the Safe Removal of Asbestos 2nd Edition. 

ADE Capabilities


ADE can conduct the following asbestos related services:


  • Asbestos surveys – asbestos register
  • Asbestos inspections and asbestos clearances
  • Asbestos testing
  • Asbestos air monitoring


ADE maintains the highest standards of security when conducting environmental assessments. All the details of the investigations are strictly confidential.