What is Asbestos?

Contrary to common belief, asbestos is a naturally occurring fibrous material. It is still mined and processed in many countries throughout the world today.

Types of Asbestos

There are six main types of asbestos, broken into two separate categories. These two categories are:

Serpentine: meaning snake like or curly in appearance

Amphibole: characterized by straighter fibers

The serpentine group has only one member - chrysotile, which accounts for over 90% of all asbestos in world production. This asbestos is white or green in color and is often used as insulation or for fireproofing products. With its widespread usage, chrysotile is responsible for most asbestos-related health problems.

The amphibole group contains the other five types of asbestos. Of these, amosite and crocidolite are the only two used for commercial purposes. These two are characterized by strong, stiff fibers and are consider highly dangerous when these airborne fibers are inhaled or ingested.

Amosite, brown-asbestos, had been banned in many countries for decades but it was still being commercially produced up until this last decade. At one time, it accounted for 5% of the asbestos used in factories and buildings.

Crocidolite is a rare bluish form of asbestos. It is highly resistant to chemicals. Itís considered to be the most dangerous form of asbestos and was previously used to reinforce plastics. Prior to this, it was used in some yarns and ropes.

The remaining three types of asbestos are: tremolite, actinolite, and anthophyllite. There were never in commercial use and are not covered in our discussion here.

Most Common:

  • Chrysotile (White asbestos)
  • Amosite (Brown asbestos)
  • Crocidolite (Blue asbestos)

Rarer Forms

  • Fibrous Tremolite
  • Fibrous Anthophyllite
  • Fibrous Actinolite
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