is white asbestos dangerous? fibre safe

The construction industry has witnessed numerous innovations and materials over the years. Two such materials, Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete (RAAC) and asbestos, have been in recent headline news due to their implications on health and safety, especially in educational institutions.

Is White Asbestos Dangerous?

‘White asbestos’ is more frequently known as Chrysotile asbestos, and it is the most commonly used type of asbestos worldwide. At the peak of its production in 1989, roughly 95% of all asbestos mined was Chrysotile, and it is derived from the serpentine family of rocks. The substance was widely used in building materials and textiles such as:

  • Adhesives
  • Brake pads
  • Cement
  • Textured Coating
  • Fireproofing
  • Gaskets
  • Insulation
  • Roofing
  • Vinyl tiles
  • Fuse boxes

Chrysotile fibres have a distinct white colour and have a curly and flexible texture. The material is renowned for being strong, which is precisely why it gained such popularity. They are also incredibly heat resistant and have excellent electrical, thermal and acoustic properties. Surprisingly to most people, the importation and use of Chrysotile asbestos was not banned in the UK until 1999.

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Is white asbestos safe?

All asbestos is dangerous, and Chrysotile (or white asbestos) is still a class 1 carcinogen which means it poses a serious risk to human life through the cause of life-threatening illnesses. This means that regardless of how dangerous it is compared to other types of asbestos, they should all be treated with the same level of concern. There is still much public disinformation and common myths surrounding white asbestos, however the risk associated with asbestos containing materials (ACM) should be more widely investigated rather than just the type of asbestos fibre. 

For example, to determine the severity of an ACM we must first understand the percentage content of asbestos within the material, the friability of the material (i.e. how likely it is to release fibres) the surface treatment of the material (is it sealed) and the likelihood of disturbance of the ACM. The type of asbestos used is just one of the factors that we look at to assess how dangerous the ACM actually is – most people are unaware of this resulting in incorrect information.

White asbestos (like all asbestos) is safe to be left in situ within a structure, providing it is left undisturbed and undamaged. It becomes hazardous when it is disturbed by releasing harmful fibres into the air, which can then be inhaled.

Due to it being the most widely commercially used type of asbestos, white asbestos accounts for most cases of mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases, including lung cancer, larynx cancer, ovary cancer and asbestosis.

Although mesothelioma is still classified as a rare disease, the number of cases is increasing, which is a cause for concern.

Can white asbestos kill you?

Collectively, the World Health Organization estimates that 107,000 people die every year across the world from asbestos-related diseases such as mesothelioma, asbestosis and asbestos lung cancer. In the UK alone, the Health and Safety Executive estimates the total number of asbestos-related deaths to be around 5,000 per year.

If you have a non-domestic building that was built prior to the year 2000, then you have a legal obligation to manage the asbestos risk that may lie within it. While there are fewer legalities to a home built before 2000, you should still ensure that your family and contractors are not being put at risk by asbestos within your home.

Which is the most dangerous type of asbestos?

All types of asbestos are dangerous. However, amphiboles, or blue and brown asbestos, are typically considered the most dangerous type of asbestos. These varieties have sharp, straight chain-like structures that are easily inhaled, and your body will find more difficult to break down. Studies have shown that it takes much less exposure to amphibole asbestos to cause cancer which makes asbestos the number one killer in the UK workplace.

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Contact Fibre Safe Today For Asbestos Survey

As always, the best way to get accurate information specific to you and your building is to seek help from true industry experts like Fibre Safe. You can contact us online or by calling us on 0800 458 4136. For Commercial Asbestos Management Surveys, Click Here. For Domestic Asbestos Management Surveys, Click Here.


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