Does asbestos occur naturally?

PUBLISHED 18 Oct 2016

Asbestos has been, for many years, one of Australia's most important building materials. It offered a range of advantages due to its exceptional insulating, fire-resistant and reinforcing properties. However, after it was discovered that it could cause cancer such as Mesothelioma, there was a wide ban on the use, importation and extraction of asbestos.

Yet, this was not the end of asbestos, as it can be found naturally occurring in Australia's countryside.

Naturally occurring asbestos

Asbestos is a general term for a group of six mineral fibres belonging to two groups:

  • Serpentine group: White asbestos.
  • Amphibole group: Anthophyllite, amosite, crocidolite, tremolite and actinolite.

As all these forms of asbestos can be found naturally occurring in Australia, it is important everyone knows what to do if the come into contact with it.

Typically, it is found in rock formations, including serpentinite, sediment and soil. To help NSW residents avoid exposure risks, the government mapped the state into high, medium and low potential regions.

Luckily, less than 1 per cent of the state is considered high-risk. One example is the East Guyong quarry and its surrounding areas.

The main way the public and workers can be exposed to naturally occurring asbestos is through building and construction work in areas that contain veins within rock formations. Work Health and Safety regulations ensure that companies must manage the risks associated with naturally occurring asbestos.

What can happen if I encounter it?

In most cases, the impact of naturally occurring asbestos on your health is very low. As NSW is made up of only 1 per cent of the material, there are very small chances of running into it. Additionally, experts do not consider it dangerous if left undisturbed. For workers, this can be of little use as they may accidentally disturb asbestos, leading to it being released into the surrounding air.

Breathing in asbestos fibres can significantly increase the risk to your health. The chance of developing asbestos-related diseases depends on:

  • How many fibres you breathe in.
  • How long the exposure lasted.
  • The type of fibre.
  • If you are a smoker.
  • Your age at first exposure.

If you have been exposed to asbestos fibres and you believe it is the fault of a company or organisation, you can proactively seek compensation. A company's negligence can put you on the back foot when it comes to your health, quality of life and standard of living. A compensation settlement can go a long way to covering your medical bills.

If you would like to know more, talk to Gerard Malouf and Partners Compensation, Medical Negligence and Will Dispute Lawyers.

Call us now on 1800 004 878 to book a free appointment with one of my compensation experts, or email your enquiry.