The Six Different Types Of Asbestos Explained

The Six Different Types Of Asbestos Explained

The term asbestos covers six different substances that belong to the serpentine and amphibole mineral families, all of which contain unique fibres and are classified as asbestos.  Today we’re taking a look at the different types of asbesto.

CHRYSOTILE is the most commonly used type of asbestos and is seen in ceilings, roofs, walls and floors of many homes and business premises.  Chrysotile was also widely used in pipe insulation, gaskets, boiler seals and brake pads and linings.  Chrysotile fibres are fine with good flexibility and high heat resistance and account for almost 90% of the asbestos used in commercial applications.  Despite its prolific usage, according to studies chrysotile is one of the least dangerous asbestos types, needing higher levels of exposure than other types of asbestos to develop related diseases.

CROCODILITE is also known as blue asbestos and provides the most effective heat resistance of all the types of asbestos.  It’s mined in Australia, South Africa and Bolivia and is deemed the most dangerous type of asbestos – the fibres are so fine that they can easily be inhaled and get lodged in the lining of the lungs.  Crocodilite was used to insulate steam engines due to its heat resistance properties.  It can also be found in various spray on coatings, in pipe insulation materials and in cement products.

TREMOLITE – although it’s not used commercially, tremolite is found in chrysotile asbestos, vermiculite and talc powders.  Tremolite is considered a major health risk and can sometimes be found as a contaminant in various asbestos containing insulation products, sealants, roofing materials, plumbing materials  and even paints.  Tremolite has strong, flexible fibres and was often spun and woven into cloth - it may be green, grey, white and transparent.

AMOSITE is also known as brown asbestos and is mostly mined in Africa.  Amosite was mostly used in cement sheet and pipe insulation and can often be found in insulating boards (which may contain up to 40% asbestos).  Amosite may also be present in thermal insulatiojn products and ceiling tiles.  Amosite is also known as the mineral grunerite and its  needle-like fibres have high tensile strength and good heat resistance.

ACTINOLITE is a harsh textured form of asbestos, not as flexible as the other types.  It is most commonly found in metamorphic rocks and has never been used commercially, although it is sometimes found as a contaminant in some asbestos products.  Actinolite is an amphibole form of asbestos and more brittle than the serpentine types above.  Actinolite is typically used with the mineral vermiculite for gardening and insulation materials.

ANTHOPHYLLITE was chiefly mined in Finland and is one of the rarest types of asbestos and does not have much history of commercial use.  However, anthophyllite has been used in products containing  minerals such as talc and vermiculite.  When anthophyllite forms the high temperatures present causes talc to destabilize and fall apart.  Traces of anthophyllite may be present in talc and related products like talcum powder.