What is Asbestos?
Asbestos material is the fibrous form of mineral silicates belonging to the serpentine and amphibole groups of rock-forming minerals. The most significant types include chrysotile (white), amosite (brown) and crocidolite (blue) asbestos. Asbestos is a naturally forming mineral mined from the earth – Australia used to mine this material at Wittenoom in WA from 1918 to 1966.
Asbestos is the binding material used in many products. The material was so effective as a binding material that it was used in over 3,000 products in and around the home, workplace and even to a small degree in transport.
In the past, the dangers of asbestos were completely unknown or ignored, and exposure was high in a lot of industries and jobs, particularly those working in and around the asbestos mine and manufacture. Tradesmen and renovators working with and around the material can easily be exposed by not taking the necessary safety precautions.
There is no safe degree of exposure to asbestos. For this reason, it is vital that each homeowner and each commercial entity undertaking a construction project have asbestos identified so that safe handling procedures can be followed if asbestos is present.
For home owners it is critical for the safety of those living in and visiting the home to know what is in your home and if there is any asbestos, where it is and what to do regarding it. For further information on asbestos, the internet has an almost inexhaustible amount of information.
Chrysotile or white asbestos is the most commonly encountered form of asbestos, accounting for approximately 95% of the asbestos in place in the United States and a similar proportion in other countries. It is a soft, fibrous silicate mineral in the serpentine group of phyllosilicates; as such, it is distinct from other asbestiform minerals in the amphibole group.
Amosite is often referred to as brown asbestos, is a trade name for the amphiboles belonging to the cummingtonite-grunerite solid solution series, commonly from South Africa, named as an acronym for “Asbestos Mines of South Africa”. Amosite is seen under a microscope as a grey-white vitreous fiber. It is found most frequently as a fire retardant in thermal insulation products, asbestos insulating board and ceiling tiles.
Crocidolite is the fibrous form of the amphibole riebeckite, found primarily in southern Africa, but also in Australia and Bolivia. Crocidolite is seen under a microscope as a blue fiber. Crocidolite commonly occurs as soft friable fibers. Asbestiformamphibole may also occur as soft friable fibers but some varieties such as amosite are commonly straighter. All forms of asbestos are fibrillar in that they are composed of fibers with breadths less than 1 micrometer that occur in bundles and have very great widths. Asbestos with particularly fine fibers is also referred to as “amianthus”.