The History of Asbestos Use: From Discovery to Ban

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Somah Thong

Asbestos Removal Specialist

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Once hailed as a “miracle mineral,” asbestos’ tale is a complex one. Its journey from discovery to ban in Australia is rich with twists. Spanning centuries, its story shows how perceptions shifted due to its harmful effects. From ancient use to widespread industrial application, and finally the ban, asbestos has made its mark.

We trace asbestos’ path, highlighting key events and the steps to its ban in Australia. Our research leans on data from the Australian Government Department of Health, Safe Work Australia, and the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency. Together, these sources illuminate asbestos’ history in Australia.

Key Takeaways

  • Asbestos was initially lauded for its durability and fire resistance.
  • The mineral saw extensive use during the Industrial Revolution.
  • Australia experienced a significant asbestos use boom in the 20th century.
  • Health concerns, including mesothelioma and asbestosis, highlighted its dangers.
  • Strong regulations and a comprehensive ban were eventually enacted for public safety.

Discovery of Asbestos

Asbestos was first discovered in ancient times. People back then saw how special it was. They used its strength and fire resistance.

Asbestos discovery

Early Uses of Asbestos

Asbestos was used in many different ways at first. It was in pottery, textiles, and as insulation. The Egyptians made burial cloths from it to stop decay, and the Greeks made fireproof clothes.

These uses showed how useful asbestos was. It set the stage for its widespread use later on.

Industrial Revolution and Asbestos

Asbestos use grew with the Industrial Revolution. It was used in steam engines, boilers, and for electrical insulation.

This time saw a huge increase in asbestos use. Its fireproofing and insulating benefits were key for many industries. It became a big part of industrial development.

Asbestos in Australian Industry

Asbestos changed the Australian industry a lot in the 20th century. Its qualities made it popular for many uses. This time is known as the 20th-century asbestos boom.

Asbestos australian industry

20th Century Boom

Australia was one of the biggest users of asbestos then. Its use grew in building, ship-making, and making other products. Companies like Australian Blue Asbestos Company and James Hardie Industries led in digging up and making things with asbestos.

The stuff was in high demand. It was put into many products to make them last longer and resist fire.

Common Applications

Asbestos applications were everywhere, especially in building and cars. In building, it was in cement, roofs, and insulation for its strength against heat. The car industry used it in brake and clutch parts because it resists wear and tear.

This wide use is why asbestos was so important in the asbestos Australian industry.

Its use was big and brought benefits then. But today, we face the health problems it causes.

Health Concerns and Environmental Impact

Asbestos is linked to serious health risks, like asbestosis and mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is a tough cancer found in the lining of the lungs, abdomen, or heart. It’s mostly caused by being exposed to asbestos. These health risks show why it’s crucial to manage asbestos well and have strong laws.

The harm asbestos does to the environment goes beyond affecting health. Its mining and bad disposal have spread contamination, hitting soil and water quality hard. The environmental impact of asbestos shows why we need tough rules to lessen its negative effects.

Let’s look closer at the main points about asbestos’s health and environmental risks:

Health RisksAsbestos exposure directly leads to conditions like asbestosis and mesothelioma. These affect breathing and are often deadly.
Environmental ImpactAsbestos’s environmental harm includes contamination of soil and water. This can harm both wildlife and humans.
RegulationsGovernment rules aim to cut down on asbestos exposure. They include safe removal, disposal, and containment steps. This reduces health and environmental risks.

By focusing on these key areas, we grasp the widespread dangers asbestos poses. We also see the vital steps needed to safeguard our health and the planet.

The History of Asbestos Use: Regulatory Changes and Bans

As people learned about the dangers of asbestos, there was a big change in rules. This section looks at how rules started and the full bans we have now.

Introduction of Asbestos Regulations

In the late 20th century, Australia began to take a hard look at asbestos. Early efforts aimed to lower the risk for workers from asbestos exposure. Safe Work Australia was key in pushing for safer workplace standards.

Modern-Day Bans

The shift to modern asbestos laws was crucial. By 2003, Australia had reached a key moment with a total ban on asbestos use, reuse, and sales. State laws show the gradual changes needed to get this full ban in place.

YearKey RegulationImpact
1983Occupational Exposure Standards ImplementedReduced Risks for Workers
1989Ban on New Uses of Asbestos AnnouncedInitial Step Towards Comprehensive Ban
2003Total Ban on Asbestos PassedProhibition of Importation and Use
PresentOngoing Monitoring and EnforcementIncreased Public Health and Safety


Australia’s experience with asbestos tells a story of change and resilience. It warns us about the risks of industrial progress. Now, it’s vital to have experts remove asbestos safely.

Total Asbestos Removal Brisbane is key in achieving this goal. They offer full asbestos removal services. Their work reduces health risks and follows safety laws. Hiring them helps us build a safer community.

Feedback from clients shows Total Asbestos Removal Brisbane is effective and dependable. They lead in handling asbestos safely. Picking professionals like them helps fix the asbestos problem well. Together, we’re making Australia safer and asbestos-free.


What is the history of asbestos use in Australia?

Asbestos use in Australia began a long time ago. It was used widely until people realized it was harmful. The Australian Government and other agencies provide detailed history.

When was asbestos first discovered and what were its early uses?

Asbestos has been around since ancient times because it’s strong and fireproof. People first used it in pots and buildings. This info comes from several historical sources and libraries.

How did the Industrial Revolution affect asbestos use?

The Industrial Revolution made asbestos very popular. It was perfect for many industries. You can learn more from specific historical sources.

What role did asbestos play in Australian industry during the 20th century?

In the 20th century, Australia used a lot of asbestos in construction and cars. This fact is supported by documents from the Asbestos Safety Agency and company histories.

What are the health risks associated with asbestos exposure?

Being near asbestos can cause lung diseases and cancer. It’s bad for people and the environment. Information is available from the Cancer Council and environmental groups.

What regulations and bans are in place for asbestos in Australia?

Australia has strong rules against asbestos to keep people safe. Safe Work Australia and state laws help enforce this. There are also studies comparing bans worldwide.

What is the legacy of asbestos use in Australia?

Asbestos has left a mixed legacy of industrial growth and health problems. Now, the goal is safe removal of asbestos. Companies like Total Asbestos Removal Brisbane are important for this.

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Somah Thong

Asbestos Removal Specialist

Somah Thong is an experienced, licensed, and qualified asbestos removal specialist and the founder of Total Asbestos Removal Brisbane. Established on June 2, 2010, Total Asbestos Removal Brisbane has become a leading name in the industry, undertaking some of the largest asbestos and demolition projects in Brisbane and the Gold Coast. With a commitment to safety and excellence, Somah and his team have earned a reputation for delivering high-quality services in the asbestos removal sector.