Our history with asbestos is a complicated one. Hugely popular in the 20th century, asbestos is a silicate mineral used for building and insulation with natural resistance to fire, heat and electricity as well as good sound absorption and a relatively low cost.
However, from the 1980s asbestos inhalation was linked to several serious ailments including lung cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestosis. People around the world took notice and over several decades the practice of using asbestos became a thing of the past. However, these conditions can take years to develop and asbestos is still responsible for thousands of deaths a year with the government’s Health and Safety Executive estimating there were 2,595 mesothelioma cases in 2016 alone.
The first step to dealing with this problem is raising awareness. To this end, we’ve written about the types of asbestos to show you how varying and pervasive this substance is. At MAS, we specialise in identifying, testing and removing asbestos to ensure buildings are safe and habitable and have used our years of knowledge and experience to bring you this informative guide.
Different Types Of Asbestos
Crocidolite, otherwise known as blue asbestos was commonly used in the production of roof tiles, cement sheets, fireproofing, insulation and acid storage battery casings. It was also used in some spray-on coatings, pipe insulation and plastics. Blue asbestos is thought to be responsible for many ailments as its incredibly thin fibres are inhaled easily and lodge themselves in human tissue.
Anthophyllite asbestos does not have a long history of commercial use but can still be present in cement, insulation, roofing and rubber. Otherwise referred to as ‘azbolen asbestos’ has a high concentration of iron and magnesium and needle-like fibres that can be inhaled easily. Much like blue asbestos, inhaling these tiny fibres can cause untold medical concerns as they get lodged in the lungs and other organs.
Brown asbestos is the common name for amosite asbestos. Used extensively throughout the last century, this mineral was used most frequently in cement sheets and pipe insulation. It can also be found in insulating board, gaskets, vinyl tiles, roofing products and thermal insulation products. In its natural state, this form of asbestos is known as grunerite. This asbestos is particularly dangerous as studies by the American Cancer Society discovered; “exposure to amosite asbestos creates a higher risk of cancer in comparison with common chrysotile asbestos.”
Chrysotile, or White asbestos, is the most commonly used form of asbestos. It is found in three forms, namely, chrysotile asbestos, tremolite asbestos and actinolite asbestos. Chrysotile can be found in materials used in roofs, ceilings, walls and floors. Chrysotile asbestos was also extensively used in automobile brake linings, gaskets and boiler seals, as well as insulation for pipes, ducts and home appliances.
Natural deposits of chrysotile are often accompanied by trace amounts of other types of asbestos, which increase its toxicity. However, even on its own, exposure to chrysotile asbestos fibres still carries a serious risk of life-threatening illness. Chrysotile is also different to other forms of asbestos as its fibres form a serpentine structure instead of straight fibres. This made it hugely popular as its natural flexibility made it easy to spin or weave into fabric. All other forms of asbestos form short-needle shaped fibres and are known as amphibole asbestos.
Tremolite is another form of white asbestos that is not used commercially. However, they can be found as contaminants in other materials like vermiculite and talc. Talc and vermiculite have extensive uses in everyday objects and structures. From insulation to packaging materials to chalk products, paint and cosmetics, these harmless substances can carry trace amounts of tremolite. If inhaled tremolite acts much like the rest of the asbestos family becoming lodged in human tissue and can lead to medical complications.
Actinolite asbestos is an extremely rare form of asbestos with a high amount of magnesium. This asbestos was not mined commercially but has been found in other materials like vermiculite. This asbestos can be damaging to the alveoli in the lungs and has been found in vermiculite, attic insulation, children’s toys, drywall, talcum powder, sealants, concrete, and fireproofing materials.
All forms of asbestos are dangerous. Their use was pervasive and their effects will be felt for years to come. At Midlands Asbestos Solutions we use our years of experience and expertise to find, test and remove all harmful asbestos deposits. We are fully licensed to remove and safely dispose of asbestos as well as inform and educate people on how to look out for the warning signs. So if you’re concerned your home or workplace may have asbestos, contact us today. When it comes to asbestos removal there is no time like the present.Tags: Blue asbestos, brown asbestos, white asbestos