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Types of Asbestos

Asbestos has been mined and processed for over 2,000 years. This mineral naturally occurs in the environment as bundles of fibers that can be separated into durable threads. In today's world, asbestos is known for its side effects, which can result in lung cancer, mesothelioma, asbestosis, and other incurable diseases. The time between diagnosis of mesothelioma and the initial exposure to this mineral commonly is 20 to 50 years.

Due to its tensile strength and resistance to chemicals, asbestos was used in the manufacture of automotive products, roofing materials, heating and cooling systems, adhesives, pipeline wraps, and ceiling tiles. Asbestos actually refers to a group of minerals dived into two major groups--amphibole and serpentine asbestos. Chrysotile is the only mineral that belongs to the serpentine group. The amphibole group includes amosite, crocidolite, actinolite, tremolite, and anthophyllite. Amphibole asbestos consists of needle-like fibers, while serpentine asbestos has long, curly fibers.

Chrysotile (White Asbestos)

The most common type of asbestos is chrysotile. This minerals accounts for up to 95 percent of all asbestos used commercially. White asbestos has a serpentine fiber-formation and consists of curly fibers. Chrysotile can be found in brake linings, floor tiles, and corrugated asbestos cement roof sheets. This mineral can be spun and woven into fabric. Like other types of asbestos, it can absorb resins, polymers, and other organic materials.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has classified chrysotile as a human carcinogen. This mineral has been used for at least 200 years in the manufacture of rubber products, textiles, plastics, asphalt, and chrysotile-cement. It can also be found in gas mask filters, dental cast linings, countertops, and fireproofing clothing. Although chrysotile fibers are less likely to be inhaled, no level of exposure is safe. Studies have shown that people who live near asbestos mines face a greater risk of developing malignant mesothelioma, lung cancer, and other asbestos-related diseases.

Crocidolite (Blue Asbestos)

Crocidolite is a lavender-blue or greenish mineral that has greater tensile strength than chrysotile. The main sources of blue asbestos are South Africa and Australia. It occurs as finely textured hair-like fibers, accounting for about 4 percent of all asbestos mined annually. Belonging to the amphibole family, blue asbestos was first described in 1815 under the name of "Blaueisenstein" (blue ironstone). This mineral resists corrosion and insulates effectively. Crocidolite was commonly used in asbestos-cement sheets and ceiling tiles.

Amosite (Brown Asbestos)

Also known as brown or gray asbestos, amosite is the second more hazardous form of this mineral because of its long persistence in the lungs of exposed people. Brown asbestos has been banned in most countries as the fibers can cause malignant mesothelioma and other deadly lung diseases if inhaled. It forms as columnar, fibrous, or massive aggregates of crystals. The term "amosite" is a conversion of the trade name "Asbestos Mines of South Africa (AMOS)."

This naturally-occurring mineral can be found in roof tiles, ceiling tiles, insulation boards, cement sheets, and gaskets. Amosite consists of long and thin fibers that can be broken into needle-like pieces. Individuals who have been occupationally exposed to high levels of amosite are generally diagnosed with mesothelioma, asbestosis, diffuse pleural thickening, pleural plaques, and asbestos warts.

The other four types of asbestos belong to the amphibole category. They consist of long, straight fibers and can be found in talc powders, whitewash powders, thermal insulation products, cement sheets, and roofing materials. Tremolite is a naturally-occurring mineral that converts to diopside at high temperatures. Inhaling the fibers can lead to pleural and peritoneal mesothelioma, lung disease, and pleural changes.

Anthophyllite can be differentiated from other minerals in the amphibole category by its white to brown color. Due to its increased flexibility and tensile strength, this mineral was once used in refractory cements. Actinolite is an amphibole mineral whose name is derived from the Greek word "aktis" meaning "ray." This mineral has a fibrous nature and occurs in metamorphic rocks. It is made up of other minerals and natural substances such as magnesium, calcium, iron, and oxygen. Actinolite was used in construction materials, children's toys, paints, roof coatings, drum brake linings, and corrugated paper.

Diagnosing and treating asbestos-related diseases is very difficult. If you believe that you have been exposed to this hazardous substance, talk with a mesothelioma doctor. There are many specialists that can prescribe you an appropriate treatment to reduce pain and prolong your life. To find out more about mesothelioma cancer and other asbestos disorders, complete the form below.