Types of Asbestos
Asbestos is often thought of as a single product, but the term actually refers to six different minerals with similar properties. These properties include flame resistance, durability, flexibility, and low electrical conductivity. Unfortunately, all six types of asbestos are also formed from thin fibers that can break apart and be ingested by unsuspecting people. While some types are considered more dangerous than others, there is no such thing as safe asbestos.
If you have been exposed to asbestos at work or in your home, knowing the type of asbestos involved can have both medical and legal implications. It is important for anyone whose life has been affected by asbestos exposure to be familiar with its different forms, and the risk factors of each. Please contact an asbestos attorney of Williams Kherkher by calling 800-781-3955 today if you or a loved one has been exposed to this harmful substance.
The Six Asbestos Types
Although there are actually over 100 minerals that have asbestos-like properties, the US government has only officially recognized six. These six types of asbestos are:
Chrysotile asbestos. The fibers that compose most forms of asbestos have small, straight, and sharp shapes, often described as “needle-like.” Chrysotile asbestos (or “white asbestos”) is the exception to this rule; its fibers actually have curly spiral-like shapes. This shape makes them less like to be inhaled, and thus less likely to cause health problems. Chrysotile asbestos is viewed as relatively safe and is still used in some capacities in the US; however, exposure can result in major health problems.
Amosite asbestos. Amosite asbestos fibers are straight and usually gray or brown, earning amosite the nickname “brown asbestos.” After Chrysotile asbestos, brown asbestos used to be the second most common type of asbestos used in commercial products. Commercial use of this substance has decreased greatly since its dangers were proven in recent decades. Several countries have banned brown asbestos outright; in the US, its use is strictly regulated.
Crocidolite asbestos. Also known as “blue asbestos,” crocidolite asbestos is composed of very fine and very sharp fibers. Compared to other forms of asbestos fibers, crocidolite’s are easily broken and very easily inhaled. Fortunately, blue asbestos was the least commonly used type in the US, due to its being weaker and less flame-resistant than other types. It is the most dangerous type of asbestos.
Tremolite asbestos. Tremolite asbestos naturally forms in large masses in many parts of the world, including Canada and certain parts of the US. While it was never among the most commonly used forms of asbestos, it is among the most dangerous. Tremolite has been found in several different household products, including talcum powder and even children’s toys.
Anthophyllite asbestos. Anthophyllite asbestos is not as durable as other forms, meaning it did not have as many industrial uses in the US. However, it has been used as a component in certain products such as paint and sealants. Miners, painters, and shipyard workers are especially vulnerable to anthophyllite-related diseases.
Actinolite asbestos. Actinolite asbestos is similar to tremolite: both range in color from white to green, both are formed in certain kinds of rocks, and neither has a long history of industrial use. Actinolite comes in two forms: one that is composed of long, thin fibers and one that is not. Fibrous actinolite is highly dangerous, as are all forms of asbestos. Non-fibrous actinolite, however, does not carry the same risk.