What is Asbestos?

30 January 2020

 

What is Asbestos? 

 

Asbestos is a fibrous silicate that appears naturally in the veins of igneous or metamorphic rocks of which or metamorphic rocks of which there are 3 common types of asbestos: 

  1. Chrysotile (white) | Lizardite, Antigorite 
  2. Amosite (brown) | Grunerite
  3. Crocidolite (blue) | Riebeckite

Most people refer to the common asbestos types as white, brown and blue. The white Chrysotile is by far the most abundant in the world but all types are still mined across the world. 

 

What does it look like? 

The colour of asbestos refers to the colour of appears naturally in the veins of igneous the natural rock from which they are mined. You cannot rely on the color or the look of a product to determine if it is asbestos containing or the type of asbestos it might be. In order to determine whether a material or product contains asbestos and if so, what type of asbestos it contains, sampling and testing are required. 
 

What Is Asbestos Used For? 

Known as the 'miracle mineral', asbestos was used in many products due to its versatile properties: 

 

  • Asbestos may be woven, spun or teased 
  • Good thermal stability/non-flammable 
  • Electrical resistance
  • Good anti-condensation properties 
  • Good acoustic absorbency 
  • Good binding properties with cements, plastics and bitumen 
  • May be sprayed 
  • Resistant to acids 

 

Why is Asbestos Dangerous? 

Airborne Asbestos Fibres that are small enough to reach the deep lung tissue have no way of being pushed out via breathing so the body has to use other methods to High tensile strength get rid of them. 

 

The main method is to try and dissolve the foreign body with acids however asbestos is resistant to acid. As a result, the acid damages the tissues surrounding the asbestos fibres. This causes scar tissue and other medical effects known as asbestos-related diseases.

 

What Products Contain Asbestos? 

  • Asbestos' physical properties made it strong for applications such as cement. 
  • The electrical resistance asbestos has meant that it was a good product to be used in electric boxes for flash guards behind fuse carriers preventing the spark from blown fuses touching the box and making it live. 
  • Asbestos’ anti-condensation properties meant that it was used in places like swimming pools to prevent condensation buildup on the walls and ceiling. 
  • Chrysotile asbestos was so flexible that it could be manipulated into blankets, used for fire protection or aprons that could be used in chemical labs for protection. 
  • Excellent acoustic absorbency meant that it was a good application in theatres to prevent sound reverberation and enhance the viewer's experience. 
  • Its flexible nature meant that is could be sprayed combined with a bonding agent and applied to hard to get to areas. It also meant that the areas that it was sprayed on to had an excellent even cover. 

 

What Responsibility Do Employers Have To Prevent Asbestos Exposure? 

 

Duty holders and employers have responsibilities to assess and manage the risks of exposure to asbestos and must ensure that the correct information and protective equipment is given to anyone who will come into contact with any potentially harmful substance in line with the Control of Asbestos Regulation (CAR) 2015.

 

Our asbestos management team can help you to manage your asbestos risks correctly and protect individuals and the environment from asbestos exposure. View our list of asbestos services here: Asbestos Services

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