What You Need to Know About Asbestos Fibers
Mined and used commercially for many years, asbestos mineral fibers were
later found to cause many diseases including
lung cancer, and
asbestosis. This information came too late for many who had already been exposed
to the fibers. The United States government now regulates six forms of
asbestos, but the United States Bureau of Mines lists over 100 fibers
as “asbestos-like.” Several industries have lobbied against
adding these mineral fibers to the current list, raising concerns over
the other types of asbestos that may be less regulated.
The six different asbestos fibers fall into one of two mineral groups:
serpentine and amphibole. The serpentine fibers are curly and flexible
while amphibole fibers are straight and needle-like. Amphiboles are considered
more dangerous and less common in commercialized products than serpentines,
but the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) identifies
both forms as carcinogens.
If you have come across any form of asbestos call (877) 958-7920 to consult
for free with our knowledgeable asbestos lawyers.
The mineral group “serpentine” includes only one variety—chrysotile.
Also known as “white” or “green,” chrysotile accounts
for 95 percent of asbestos. It is argued that once inside the body, chrysotile’s
structure makes it more easily dislodged from tissues, and therefore less
likely to cause disease than the amphibole variety. For these reasons,
some scientists consider it a lesser toxic mineral fiber. Still, because
the fiber is so widespread compared to the other varieties, it accounts
for a majority of health problems associated with exposure. Chrysotile
is used in cement, as flat sheets for ceilings, walls and floors, and
to provide friction in braking systems.
Amphibole (Crocidolite, Amosite, Anthophyllite, Tremolite, Actinolite)
The amphibole mineral group is less commercially used but more dangerous
than the serpentine group. Amphiboles have varying degrees of friability.
In general, they are more likely to crumble than chrysotile. With their
needle-like structures, they can easily be embedded in the body’s
tissues, increasing the person’s chances of developing mesothelioma
and other serious health conditions.
Also known as “blue asbestos” or “riebeckite,”
crocidolite is thought to be the most toxic variety of mineral fibers.
Its “blue asbestos” nickname arose from its color, which ranges
from slate gray to deep blue. It is hair-like, long, and straight. Crocidolite
was primarily mined in South Africa and Australia but is no longer mined
because of its comparatively poor heat resistance and danger. It is estimated
that 18% of crocidolite miners died from mesothelioma, and the people
living in areas surrounding old mines still suffer from the exposure.
It was used primarily in cement products.
Called “cummingtonite” or “brown asbestos,” amosite
is second only to crocidolite in hazardousness. Its fibers are straight
but brittle, and at one time it was the second most commonly used type
used in building materials, after chrysotile. It is now banned in many
countries due to its high friability, but can still be found in older
structures, where it was used for a time as a flame retardant. Amosite
was mined in South Africa, and many miners have died from asbestos-related
diseases during and in years since its use.
Sometimes called “grey asbestos,” anthophyllite commonly contaminates
talc, the mineral it forms from. Anthophyllite fibers, like others in
the amphibole mineral group, are straight and brittle. It was mined in
Europe, Asia, and the United States, and was commonly used in paints and
sealants. Because it is derived from talc, it has been known to contaminate
talc products such as talcum powder. Talcum powder can be used as a deodorant
and a baby powder, and application could lead users to accidentally inhale
Varying in color from white to green, tremolite is the main contaminant
in industrial and commercial talc. In a Duke University study, scientists
tested 315 mesothelioma patients and found that half had tremolite particles
in their lungs. This study has led many to believe that the mineral fiber
is more dangerous than they originally thought. Like anthophyllite, tremolite
can also be found in talcum powder. It is found in most metamorphic rocks.
The mineral’s colors range from white to gray or brown to green,
and its structure can be either dense and compact or brittle and fibrous.
Many companies used actinolite as an insulator and today many homes are
still insulated with these materials. Actinolite has also been found in
drywall compounds and in children’s toys. Thousands of people have
potentially been exposed to actinolite and may not discover the problem
until they face diseases many years after first exposure.
If you or a loved one have been exposed to asbestos,
contact an experienced attorney at (877) 958-7920. You owe it to yourself to learn the truth about the dangers
of asbestos exposure.