Asbestos Explained

What is Asbestos?

The term 'Asbestos' is used to describe a group of fibrous minerals. The most common types of asbestos found in new Zealand are: Chrysotile (White), Crocidolite (blue) and Amosite (brown).

      asbestos types


Asbestos was used extensively throughout the manufacturing and construction industry in the mid to late 1900s. This is because it is highly durable, thermally & chemically resistant and the material was cheap and readily available.

However, asbestos fibres are microscopic and therefore are easily inhaled. Once in the lungs the fibres can't be processed properly by the body. This can lead to a variety of health effects including:

  • Mesothelioma
  • Asbestosis
  • Lung Cancer
One of the difficulties in recording asbestos-related diseases and deaths is the long latency period (>20 years) between exposure and the development of the disease.

The negative health effects associated with asbestos are all caused by inhaling the fibres. Therefore, asbestos products in good condition, with a painted surface and/or encapsulated (boxed in) may be very unlikely to release respirable fibres into the environment and may present a low risk to health.

Where is Asbestos found?

Naturally occurring asbestos was mined out of the ground as a mineral. It was then used in a wide variety of products and can be found in many buildings today.

While it is almost impossible to identify a product as an asbestos containing material (ACM) or not without sampling and laboratory analysis, some common asbestos containing products and materials are listed below.

vinyl stuccostipple











  Vinyl and backing paper                              External textured coating (Stucco)        Internal textured plaster (Stipple)













Asbestos cement soffit Asbestos cement gable Asbestos cement garage cladding


l psuper 6lagging









Lathe and plaster Super 6 roof (Asbestos Cement) Pipe lagging

Do I have Asbestos?

Due to the adverse health effects related to asbestos, it's use has been heavily regulated and restricted in recent years. Because of this it is assumed that any building constructed after 2000 will not contain asbestos materials.

Buildings constructed or altered before 2000 have a chance to contain asbestos products. The easiest way to identify if you have asbestos present in your building is to have an asbestos survey performed. There are several types of survey available, explained here.

If you suspect a material as being an ACM, a sample should be taken and analysed in an IANZ accredited laboratory. Otherwise, suspected materials must be presumed to contain asbestos.

Further information

For information on your responsibilities and duties look here.

For more information on asbestos materials check out Asbestos Aware.

See Worksafe for New Zealand regulations, guidelines and codes of practice regarding asbestos.