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Types of Asbestos

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 mesothelioma, 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.

Serpentine (Chrysotile)

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.

  • Crocidolite

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.

  • Amosite

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.

  • Anthophyllite

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 the powder.

  • Tremolite

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.

  • Actinolite

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.