One of the biggest blights on the global construction industry is the use of asbestos in the last century. This
widespread problem spread its roots across the globe, and unfortunately New Zealand was no exception.
There’s a great reason why asbestos had such a widespread adoption across multiple industries. When it’s use was
discovered in the 1930’s, its unique properties were considered to be the pinnacle of material sciences and a complete
game changer. Due to its unique fibrous properties, asbestos is a material that not only makes materials significantly
stronger without adding weight, but also increases its insulation properties and fire resistance. This made it an ideal
inclusion for a range of different applications, from oven mitts and ironing boards, to fireproof blankets and perhaps
the most disastrous, building materials.
Asbestos went from being the construction industry's gold standard to one of it’s biggest regrets.
So what exactly is asbestos? Asbestos refers to six naturally occuring silicates. Each of these silicates are made up of
thin crystals with each one of their fibres being comprised of microscopic fibres. By adding asbestos to a wide array of
building materials, such as concrete, under vinyl tiles and corrugated iron, builders looked to take advantage of
increased structural integrity, superior insulation and resistance in both residential and industrial construction
projects. The use of asbestos played a major role in the construction industry from the early 1930s all the way through
to the late 1980s, at which point the health risks of asbestos were undeniable.
The problem with these microscopic fibres is that they can be released into the atmosphere as tiny particles,
undetectable to the human eye, through abrasion and a multitude of other building processes. These particles contaminate
the air and surrounding area. If inhaled, they pose a significant hazard to the human respiratory system, not being able
to be removed, and potentially causing an irreversible, severe lung condition known as “asbestosis” as well as cancer.What Are the Different Types of Asbestos?
Asbestos comes in a few different varieties that were used for different purposes.Chrysotile Asbestos
Chrysotile asbestos is the most commonly used form of asbestos, and is often referred to as “white asbestos”. Its
versatility means it was adopted in a wide array of applications. While naturally occurring chrysotile contains trace
amounts of amphitle types of asbestos that increases its toxicity, even in isolation its fibers are capable of causing
severe, life threatening illness. Some of its applications include:AdhesivesCementBrake PAdsFireproofingDrywallInsulationRoofingVinyl TilesGasketsAmosite Asbestos
Also known as “brown asbestos”, it is a common form of asbestos often used in the building industry. Exposure to amosite
asbestos is linked to inducing a higher risk of cancer when compared to other forms of asbestos. It was commonly used
for:Fire protectionCement SheetsInsulationRoofing ProductsVinyl TilesGasketsCrocidolite Asbestos
The extremely thin fibres that make up crocidolite asbestos makes it notably dangerous, and is thought to have caused
the most deaths in comparison to other types of asbestos. These thin fibres easily lodge into lung tissue, which causes
a wealth of respiratory issues and diseases that are irreversible. Crocidolite asbestos was used in:Ceiling TilesCement SheetsFireproofingInsulationAcid storage battery casingsAnthophyllite Asbestos
Due to there not being a long history of anthophyllite