6 Common Asbestos FAQs

What is Asbestos?

Asbestos is a natural microfibre most commonly found in the following three rock types: serpentinites, altered ultramafic rocks, and some mafic rocks. Asbestos is an extremely durable material that is  resistant to fires and chemical reactions or breakdowns. Because of these properties, this is why asbestos has been used in many industrial, commercial and consumer projects and products.

The first recorded use of asbestos dates back to 2500 B.C, and was first used by humans in the Neolithic age as a temper for ceramics. Historians uncovered prehistoric shards and ware containing asbestos in Finland, central Russia, Norway and Sweden. You can find out more about what asbestos is and where you can find it here.

How many types of Asbestos are there?

There are many types of asbestos – the most common are:

Chrysotile

Chrysotile is a white asbestos that was the most commonly used form of asbestos. It is mainly found in the roofs, ceilings, walls and floors of homes and businesses. Chrysotile was also used by manufacturers in automobile brake linings, gaskets, and insulation for pipes, ducts and appliances.

Amosite

Amosite is a brown asbestos that was used most frequently in cement sheets and pipe insulation. It is also found in insulating board, ceiling tiles and thermal insulation products.

Crocidolite

Crocidolite is a blue asbestos that was commonly used to insulate steam engines. It was also used for some spray-on coatings, pipe insulation, plastics and cement products.

Anthophyllite

Anthophyllite is a grey – greenish asbestos that is used in limited quantities for insulation products and construction materials. It is also used as a contaminant in Chrysotile asbestos, vermiculite and talcum powder.

Tremolite and Actinolite

Tremolite and Actinolite asbestos is a brownish grey asbestos that isn’t used commercially, but can be found as contaminants in Chrysotile asbestos, vermiculite and talcum powder.

Why is Asbestos dangerous?

Certain types of asbestos are dangerous because they are made up of microscopic fibres that can be easily broken, and the particles easily become airborne and inhaled. Due to its broken-up needle like shapes, asbestos particles stick to the tissues of the lungs, and other areas in the respiratory system.

These tiny fibres clinging to the respiratory system cause inflammation, which consequently causes a number of health problems. Three of the most common are:

Asbestosis

Asbestosis is a degenerative respiratory condition caused by scar tissue plaques on the lining of the lungs  (pleura). Asbestosis is usually a precursor to mesothelioma.

Mesothelioma

Mesotheliomais an aggressive form of cancer in the thin membrane that protects the critical organs in the abdomen and chest. Exposure to asbestos is the only direct verified link to this form of cancer.

Lung Cancer

Lung Cancer has many triggers, and is most commonly associated with smoking and radon. Asbestos has been linked to causing and exacerbating lung cancer.

What type of Asbestos is dangerous?

Amphibole Asbestos – Crocidolite and Amosite

Amphibole asbestos materialises in naturally-formed bundles that are long, sharp, and straight. Amphibole asbestos includes Crocidolite and Amosite, and they are much more brittle than other types of asbestos as it breaks easily. When Amphibole asbestos is broken, it releases dangerous needle-like fibers into the air that are easily inhaled, and can cause a number of health problems such as cancer.

Serpentine Asbestos – Chrysotile

Serpentine asbestos historically accounts for more than 95% of all asbestos used around the world. Serpentine asbestos is not as hazardous as Amphibole asbestos. If left undisturbed and stabilised, Serpentine asbestos such as Chrysotile poses no hazard to humans.

When was Asbestos banned?

One month after the European Union (EU) banned the use of asbestos, the UK wholly banned the use of asbestos in 1999. It took nearly a century for asbestos to get banned in the UK, and because of this, 50% of buildings constructed in the UK before 1999 are suspected to contain a form of asbestos. The Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations 1987 extended the duty to manage asbestos for domestic premises in 2002. Find out about the benefits of asbestos awareness training here.

Who is at risk of asbestos exposure?

In 2013, 2,538 UK residents died from mesothelioma, and the UK’s mesothelioma rates increase to 12.7 per million for women and 68.2 million per million for men (Asbestos). Those who worked in the UK shipbuilding industry prior to the 1980s and those who served aboard a ship containing asbestos are at high risk for asbestos exposure and mesothelioma.

UK Construction workers are also another high-risk group, simply because asbestos was prevalent in the UK for over a century, and is prevalent in many of the country’s older buildings and residences. This is why many businesses offer Asbestos Awareness Training courses.

Other occupations at a high risk for asbestos exposure are:

  • Carpenters
  • Plasterers
  • Roofing contractors
  • HVAC engineers
  • Demolition crews
  • Maintenance workers
  • Teachers
  • Joiners>
  • Plumbers
  • Boilermakers
  • Electricians

Get in touch with out Asbestos specialists today.