Asbestos Fibers
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Asbestos definition by picture. Heat resistant fibrous mineral.

Asbestos Definition:

Asbestos is a heat-resistant fibrous mineral that can be woven into products and fabrics which are used in fire-resistant and insulating materials.

Common misspellings:  Espestice, abestos, asbesto, aspestos, aspestis
Uncommon misspellings:  Asbetos, absestos, aspestus, asbestus, asbestis

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What is Asbestos?

It is a mineral found in soil which consists of silicon, hydrogen and other metal ions. The fibers are tiny and shaped like needles and can only be seen if the air is very heavy. It is the perfect material for insulation because it is flexible, strong, and does not burn. In order to be produced, it needs to be combined with another material to be useful because the fibers are too small to be used alone. Once the fibers are mixed with other materials an asbestos containing material is produced.

Social and political awareness to the dangers of exposure to asbestos has been a very slow process. It has been part of industrial products since approximately 1879 and the first case of this type of cancer was documented in 1935 in the United States. There are many industrial products that are made from asbestos, such as insulation for pipe, cements, textile, spackling on walls, patching, gaskets, sheet material, ceiling tiles in your home or in your schools, etc. It has been used for years in the shipping industry and automotive industry as well.

Dust is created from the deterioration of the asbestos materials mentioned above. When the deteriorated products are disturbed or when the materials fall apart, crumble, or are damaged or ripped, it is released into the air where it will hang for long periods of time.  This is when it because extremely dangerous because the tiny fibers are now susceptible to be inhaled and/or digested which can lodge deeply into the lining of the lungs, intestines, heart, and rarely, the testis.

Do you know the cities, companies, and job sites in your state that are KNOWN for asbestos exposure? Be prepared! Be informed! Learn more by clicking on your state in the picture above or simply on the following button. If you think you or a loved one may have mesothelioma, meso book, is the most comprehensive free mesothelioma book available for all patients and families.

History of Asbestos

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Where did Asbestos come from?

This toxic mineral is found in most all residential and industrial buildings that were refurbished or built prior to the year 2000. Many of the common materials that are used to build homes and buildings contain it as well. Click the following link to learn where the most common asbestos locations are.

Mining for this mineral grew strong at the beginning of the industrial revolution in the late 1800’s. Commercial and practical use became standard and widespread during that time. In the beginning of the 19th century blue asbestos was found in Africa and soon after Canadians established the world’s first espestice mines which were mined for commercial purposes and the production grew worldwide. More than 30,000 tons were produced annually. Women and children became part of the industry workforce carding, preparing, and spinning raw fibers while the men worked in the mines.

As early as 1906 it was becoming apparent that the workers in these mines were dying unnaturally young. In 1908 insurance companies in the U.S. and Canada began to decrease both coverage and benefits and at the same time increases premiums for those employed in or around the mines.

In the U.S. there was a demand for cost-effective and mass-produced construction materials based on the growing population. In which, this mineral met the criteria perfectly and the U.S. became the world’s number 1 buyer, which was supplied by Canada.

In the early 1970’s a moratorium on the production was put into effect by the Federal government. However, the products continued to be used into the late 70’s and early 80’s, with some materials such as cement pipe into the 1990’s. The United States still does not ban materials that contain these harmful minerals, but its use has declined dramatically. The last mine closed in 2002 after producing almost a century’s worth of product around the world.

6 Types of Asbestos

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There are six different types of this type of mineral that have been identified and they have been divided into two groups below.


This asbestos has a structure that is layered with curly fibers. It is called Chrysotile and it is the only type in this category. This type was used most often in buildings in the U.S. and throughout the world because of its fireproof and heat-resistant qualities.


These asbestos fibers are like long chains that are straight and sharp and very easily inhaled. This category consists of the remaining five asbestos minerals: amosite, anthophyllite, crocidolite, and actinolite. Both amosite and crocidolite were used in many products until the 1980’s, with amosite likely to be the second most type found in buildings.
Asbestos is categorized by color however, tremolite, anthophylite and actinolite are not classified at all. White asbestos is chrysotile, Brown is amosite, and blue is crocidolite. One common factor in all six types of asbestos is that the mineral is odorless and tasteless. If asbestos is in a product it cannot be detected be looking at it. It must be tested in a laboratory.
Actinolite – As a sub-classification of the amphibole asbestos, actinolite has a consisitency that is similar to the other forms in this subset. It is mostly magnesium, and is very rare. The colors range from white to a very dark brown. Because of its rarity it is not known to have been used in products but can be found in metamorphic rock.
Amosite – this brown asbestos production ended in the last decade and is no longer mined. At one time it was the second most used form and because of that there were many individuals that were exposed during its peak use. It was used as insulation in buildings and factories and has now been banned in many countries for about 30 years.
Anthophyllite – This brown asbestos is mostly made of iron and magnesium. The fibers in anthophyllite are long and flexible and have been known to cause many different respiratory problems. This particular type has not been associated in the same certainty as the other types.
Crocidolite – This blue asbestos only accounted for approximately four percent of all used in the U.S. Crocidolite is harder as well as more brittle than the other types and it can break easily. Once it is broken, its needle-like fibers can be inhaled easily and has been named the deadliest form. It was usually used to make yarn, and rope to reinforce material for plastics. It was mined in the Western part of Australia, Bolivia, and South Africa, and 18 percent of miners have developed a type of mesothelioma thus far. Wittenoom Australia, with a population of 20,000 had about 1,000 people die from mesothelioma and it is estimated that at least another 1,000 will die from a type of a mesothelioma related disease. The mine has been abandoned as well as the town. With only eight people remaining, it has become a ghost town.
Tremolite – This is an amphibole variety of asbestos and is certainly associated with mesothelioma and other asbestos-related cancers. Tremolite asbestos is mostly composed of magnesium and its color ranges from off white to dark green.
Chrysotile – This is the only asbestos that is still mined and it is the most common type used in the world’s developed countries. 90-95 percent is still in buildings in Canada and the U.S. It accounts for most of the health problems because it was so widely used. This type was usually used for fireproofing as well as in insulation products. The Navy used it extensively during WWll and the Korean War. It was also used in friction products because it was so heat resistant so automobile manufacturers used it for brake shoes, disk pads, and clutches.
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A firefighter’s job description is categorized as dangerous.  Their job demands them to put out deadly fires and sometimes even enter burning / collapsing buildings. Aside from the obvious risk of getting burned, they are also exposed to asbestos. Burning buildings fill the air around them with this poison because asbestos is found in multiple housing foundation materials.
Show Sources


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Last Modified: Apr 14, 2017 @ 12:05 am
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