What Are the Different Types of Asbestos?23rd August 2016
Asbestos was widely used as a construction material due to its useful properties such as its resistance to fire and heat. Asbestos use grew greatly in the 20th Century, and many homes and commercial buildings were constructed with materials containing asbestos.
But the dangerous nature of asbestos and the severe health risks associated with it soon became clear, and has since been targeted for widespread removal across the country.
There are a number of different types of asbestos, so we’ve put together this guide to what each type is, their dangers and where they might be found.
There are six types of asbestos in total, and these types have been divided into two groups:
- Serpentine – This variety is made up of curly fibres. There is only one type of asbestos in this group, which is chrysotile asbestos.
- Amphibole – This variety of asbestos is characterised by straight, thin and sharp fibres which are easy to inhale. This group consists of the remaining five types of asbestos: amosite, crocidolite, anthophyllite, tremolite and actinolite.
The different types of asbestos are often categorised by their colour – although tremolite, anthophyllite and actinolite remain uncategorised:
- White – Chrysotile
- Brown – Amosite
- Blue – Crocidolite
Types of asbestos and their dangers
All kinds of asbestos are dangerous. While some may be associated with more health hazards than others, there is no safe type of asbestos. Here, we’ll take a closer look at each type of asbestos, including what they have been used for and the dangers that come with them.
We’ll deal with the only member of the serpentine asbestos family first. Chrysotile asbestos is the most common type of asbestos, and the only one that is still mined today. Chrysotile asbestos has been generally looked on as less lethal than its counterparts, but has been banned in the UK since 1999 – it was the only remaining form of asbestos permitted in the country up until then.
Chrysotile asbestos saw use in a number of products – mainly thanks to its heat resistance – such as: brake pads, brake linings, gaskets, clutches, cement and insulation.
Although the companies who mine chrysotile asbestos attest to its safety, it has been associated with a high risk of mesothelioma – a rare form of cancer that affects the thin protective tissues which cover the lungs, chest and abdomen.
This type of asbestos is extremely rare, and did not see widespread use like most other types of asbestos. It still poses a major health risk however, due to how easy it is to inhale, and can cause mesothelioma. Actinolite asbestos is mainly found in metamorphic rocks and varies in colour, ranging from white to dark brown.
Also known as brown asbestos, amosite was once the second-most commonly used form of asbestos, mainly included as pipe, thermal and electrical insulation for many factories and buildings. It was also popularly used as an anti-condensation material and for soundproofing products like acoustic ceiling tiles.
Exposure to amosite asbestos is associated with a higher risk of cancer when compared to other forms of asbestos. Lung cancer, asbestosis and mesothelioma are all risks of amosite asbestos.
Another rare form of asbestos that wasn’t widely used for commercial purposes, anthophyllite asbestos has been associated with a number of respiratory disorders. It took a long time for anthophyllite asbestos to be recognised as a mesothelioma risk when compared to other asbestos types, however there is a clear connection between this type of asbestos and mesothelioma.
Also known as blue asbestos, crocidolite is the most lethal form of asbestos. Materials containing crocidolite are more brittle than other forms of asbestos, and can break down easily and quickly, leading to the release of needle-like fibres that are easy to inhale.
While less heat resistant than other types of asbestos, it was still widely used as a reinforcement material for plastics and concrete as well as spray on insulation. Crocidolite exposure comes with a high risk of asbestos related cancer, with nearly twenty percent of crocidolite miners developing mesothelioma.
Tremolite fibres are known for being strong, flexible and extremely heat-resistant and, as such, were widely used for commercial purposes. Tremolite fibres can be spun and woven into cloth, and saw use in roofing and plumbing materials as well as sealants, insulation and even paints. Tremolite is associated with a high risk of lung cancer, mesothelioma and asbestosis.
Asbestos Waste Solutions provide professional, safe and efficient asbestos removal and disposal to commercial, industrial and domestic customers throughout the UK. From asbestos identification to collection, transportation and efficient disposal, we are dedicated to providing comprehensive asbestos management services to every customer. To find out more about the range of services we offer, get in touch with our friendly team today.This entry was posted in Asbestos in the Home, Commercial Asbestos. Bookmark the permalink.