Asbestos is a general term used for six types of naturally occurring fibrous minerals that have crystallised to form fibres.
The fibres are formed by the faulting and fracturing of rocks with increased temperatures, pressures and the presence of water
There are two mineral groups of asbestos:
Serpentine asbestos was the most commonly used type, being Chrysotile (White Asbestos) has soft flexible fibres which are less hazardous than amphibole type.
Amphibole Asbestos (Blue: Crocidolite and Brown: Amosite) are brittle, needle-like fibres/
Also, less common amphibole asbestos types are Tremolite, Actinolite and Anthophyllite. Amphibole asbestos is a lot more hazardous than serpentine asbestos.
Where is Asbestos mined?
Asbestos is present practically all over the world. Mining of asbestos started in the 1870s in Canada for Industrial purposes. Countries such as Russia, South Africa, Italy and the USA soon followed suit.
However, asbestos was used many years before industrial mining took place. Dating back to the 1600s the word “asbestos” derives from the ancient Greeks meaning “unquenchable” or “inextinguishable”
Although the import and use of asbestos is banned in the UK and many other countries, Asbestos is STILL being minded today in countries such as Russia, China and Brazil!
Why was Asbestos banned?
Asbestos was fully banned in the UK in 1999. The ban came into force because of the identified fatal health issues is causes.
Asbestos fibres are microscopic, therefore when released into the air (through disturbance), they can be easily inhaled.
When asbestos fibres are inhaled they become lodged into the lungs The body tries to remove the foreign object from the lungs and as a result, this causes tears and damage.
The damage caused by tears as well as scar tissue (from the body’s healing process), causes the development of several asbestos-related diseases.
Asbestos diseases do not sow quickly, they develop over many years after initial exposure and do not normally cause symptoms until the disease has heavily developed.
Why was Asbestos used?
Even though we now know asbestos is a deadly material, many years ago it was considered an amazing discovery – especially when used in building materials.
Asbestos has several properties which were a benefit for building materials including :
- Fire Protection
- Chemical, Water and Electricity Resistant
- Heat Insulation
With asbestos having so many benefits, this “wonder” product was used everywhere! Even in toilet seats!
Thousands of houses and buildings today still contain asbestos, which is why it is so important to have it identified before carrying out renovation/maintenance work.
Asbestos in the natural environment
Asbestos fibres can be swallowed in very small amounts if it has entered soil or drinking water. Natural sources can cause asbestos (such as cement products) to erode and enter the watercourse or soil. There is no evidence that the ingestion (swallowing) of asbestos fibres is hazardous to health
Common products containing Asbestos
Before asbestos was fully banned in 1999 in the UK, it was used in various building materials. These include use in domestic homes as well as commercial and industrial buildings.
Types of products which contain asbestos:
- Cement products (Roofing, Pipes, Guttering, water tanks)
- Insulation Boarding
- Textured Coating (Artex)
- Floor Tiles and Adhesive
- Loft insulation (Loose Fill)
- Pipe Lagging
This is not a full list, but you can check out our article which details more asbestos-containing materials and what asbestos looks like here
- Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral – NOT man-made
- Asbestos was banned from import into the UK in 1999
- Various products were made using asbestos
- Asbestos is still being mined today in Russia & China
- Asbestos-related diseases take between 15-40 years to develop after initial exposure
- You must find out if your property contains asbestos before any renovation and maintenance work is carried out on it
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