What is asbestos? Many people have heard of the risks that asbestos presents, but not so many can give a straight answer of what this material is. Well, asbestos refers to a group of 6 minerals that occur naturally and are made of soft, flexible fibers. These fibers are resistant to fire, a quality that gives the material a lot of applications in modern life, but its dangers have made it highly restricted. There are countries such as the US that still allow the use of the material in the manufacture of products as long as its composition lies below 1 percent. Others have placed a complete ban on the material and products that are made from it.
Besides being resistant to fire, asbestos is also resistant to corrosion, electricity, and heat. Its resistance to heat makes it a very effective insulation material that has been in huge use in the manufacture of attic insulation. In the UK, there are many homes whose attics are made of asbestos insulation. Get an asbestos survey to determine if your attic is made of asbestos today.
Other common uses of asbestos
Asbestos has not been used in insulation alone in the past. It found a lot of use in the manufacture of plastics, cement, paper, and even clothing. The material gives products it is made from a lot of strength and that is yet another important quality it brings to the table. The risk of using asbestos to make consumer products is that once the fiber are inhaled when they become airborne, they cause a very aggressive form of cancer referred to as mesothelioma. This happens because the trapped fibers result in inflammation, scarring, and finally genetic damage in the location they are located.
Modern classification of asbestos
There are two different types of asbestos that we know about at the moment. These two types are amphibole and serpentine and they both have multiple subcategories under them. Fibers in amphibole asbestos are known to be straight with a jagged shape. Amphibole asbestos are of five types, that is, crocidolite, amosite, anthophyllite, actinolite, and tremolite.
Fibers in serpentine asbestos have a curly shape and there is only one kind of asbestos under this category, that is, chrysolite.
What is the origin of asbestos?
Asbestos is a natural material, which means that it occurs naturally in nature. This product can be found in all countries of the world, but there are countries that engage in the extraction and export of these materials more than others. Leading global exporters include China, Russia, and Kazakhstan. There are many countries that were previously involved in the mining of these materials, but have stopped because of the dangers it poses. Thus, mines where the material was previously being mined have remained unused.
Asbestos can occur in pure deposits or as a contaminant in other minerals like vermiculite and talc. Most mines contain the mineral in very small amounts that occur along other minerals while others contain very large deposits.