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What is Asbestos?

Posted on by Asbestos Waste Solutions Limited

Here at Asbestos Waste Solutions, we aim to educate you on the nature and dangers of asbestos in relation to our services, but also on asbestos in and of itself. That is why, this month, Asbestos Waste Solutions are going to look at and answer the following question: ‘what is asbestos?’

In this article, we will cover all aspects of asbestos, including its chemical nature, the different types, why it was used as building material and the devastating health risks associated with it.

How is it found naturally?

Essentially, asbestos refers to a group of six varieties of naturally occurring minerals. These minerals are made up of microscopic but extremely durable fibres which are resistant to heat, fire and many chemicals. The fibres themselves can vary in arrangement from bristly and tightly bound to fuzzier and more loosely arranged. It should be noted, though, that without a microscope, these minute differences in composition can’t be detected.

The different types of asbestos

There are six types of asbestos, three of which are categorised by their colour and three which remain uncategorised, but all fall under either of the following two groups: serpentine and amphibole.

Chrysotile asbestos is characterised by its curly fibres, and is the only type in the serpentine group. The remaining five types – amosite, crocidolite, anthophyllite, tremolite and actinolite – all fall under the amphibole group. These types of asbestos are characterised by straight and sharp fibres, allowing easy inhalation.

Why was it such a popular building material?

Once called the ‘miracle mineral’, the construction industry’s widespread usage of asbestos is well documented. This was primarily due to asbestos’ durability and versatility. The popular building material is able to withstand incredibly high temperatures, whilst its fibres offer protection against fire, corrosion, electricity, noise and energy loss. As such, asbestos doubled as the ultimate shield and an excellent insulative layer.

As a result, asbestos had numerous applications in modern society. From insulative building materials to fireproof protective gear, asbestos was used for just about everything.

Health risks associated with asbestos

Unfortunately, despite its utility, we now know that asbestos carries with it a whole host of devastating health risks, the most common being mesothelioma, lung cancer and asbestosis. That is, if you are exposed to asbestos over a long period of time and breathe in the fibres, you put yourself at great risk of developing one of these diseases.

Asbestosis is incurable, but doesn’t necessarily spell disaster. Mesothelioma on the other hand, an aggressive form of cancer affecting the lining of the lungs and lower digestive tract, is extremely dangerous. Symptoms don’t tend to manifest until roughly forty years after exposure, meaning that by the time they have, it almost always proves fatal.

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.

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