Asbestos is not one mineral. It is a set of six different types of asbestos substances. These substances belong to the amphibole and serpentine mineral groups.
The different types of asbestos are
The following info-graphic will give you a general idea regarding the six types of asbestos.
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The most abundant form of asbestos is chrysotile asbestos. It is still mined in various places. These locales include Quebec in Canada, Russia, and Italy. Countries that mine chrysotile state that it is a safe form of asbestos. They often export it to other countries – especially developing countries. In such countries it is still widely used in construction and suchlike industries.
Chrysotile is categorised under serpentine asbestos. This means it has curly and snake like fibers. Chrysotile is flexible. It can be spun and woven into fabric type products such as
- protective clothing.
and other products.
The miners believe that chrysotile is not toxic. However, the beliefs of researchers and medical professionals contrast those of the miners’. They maintain that all asbestos is toxic and that there is no safe level of exposure.
Amosite (Brown Asbestos).
Amosite is called Brown Asbestos. Many researchers consider it to be the second most dangerous type of asbestos. Brown asbestos is no longer mined. Amosite is categorized under amphibole family of asbestos. The characteristics of this type of asbestos are long and thin fibers. These fibers disintegrate easily. As a result, they get airborne. This causes the health risk of asbestos exposure.
Brown asbestos was mostly utilized in manufacturing thermal insulation products. However, this highly friable form of asbestos is now banned in most countries. In South Africa, it was mined on a large scale before being outlawed. The ban is due to its high toxic level.
A big chunk of the mine workers in South Africa have developed fatal pulmonary problems. These include both benign and malignant diseases of the lung pleura.
Crocidolite (Blue Asbestos).
Crocidolite asbestos is also called blue asbestos. This type of asbestos occurs in naturally procured bundles that are sharp and straight. As a result, crocidolite asbestos is the easiest to inhale. Consequently, this makes it the most dangerous of all forms of asbestos.
Crocidolite belongs to the amphibole group of asbestos. The asbestos fiber is finely textured and has the appearance of human hair. The fibers show great flexibility and can bend to form a right angle. The colour of this type of asbestos may be either gray or dark blue.
Crocidolite is infamous to have wiped out a whole mining town in Western Australia. Wittenoom, as a result has only four people remaining at the time of writing this. The town is referred to as the blue asbestos ghost town of Australia.
Insulation was the main industry for asbestos. But crocidolite was never preferred for it.
The demand for blue asbestos was never as big as the other asbestos minerals. This is because crocidolite has a relatively lower heat resistance. However, crocidolite was used in the production of various cement products.
Anthophyllite asbestos is classified under the amphibole group. It is usually found in yellow or brown crystals. Anthophyllite asbestos has long and sharp fibers. These fibers are relatively flexible. These fibers can be easily breathed in and accumulate in the chest area.
Anthophyllite was mostly used in talc and talc related products. It can also be found in the asbestos cement industry and in insulating products.
Anthophyllite asbestos has gotten the least attention compared to other types of asbestos.
Tremolite is a known culprit for many asbestos related diseases throughout the world. Tremolite is found in either white or green colours. It belongs to the amphibole family and has sharp fibers. These are needle-like. They are easily inhaled once airborne. This makes tremolite a specifically toxic type of asbestos mineral.
Tremolite has magnesium and iron as contaminants in it. It is characteristic of metamorphosed dolomitic limestones. It can be found as a substance in
- chrysotile asbestos.
- talc powders.
- insulation product.
- roofing materials.
Actinolite is usually found in metamorphic rocks in colours that range from white to brown. It belongs to the amphibole asbestos family. Hence, actinolite has long and sharp fibers. It is not as flexible as other types of asbestos.
Actinolite is a known carcinogen that can cause asbestos related diseases. These include both cancerous and non-cancerous diseases. Once inhaled actinolite fibers are especially difficult to expel. This can cause scarring and irritation.
Actinolite asbestos has a harsh texture and is very rare. It was never used commercially in asbestos related products. Nevertheless, its use has been regulated.
Non fibrous actinolite is not fatal.