Asbestos fibres

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.

What Types of Asbestos are the Most Dangerous?

What Types of Asbestos are the Most Dangerous?

Asbestos is the general name given to several naturally occurring fibrous minerals that have crystallised to form long thin fibres. Asbestos can be subdivided into two groups – serpentine, which contains white Chrysotile, and amphiboles which contain Amosite, Crocidolite, Anthophyllite and Actinolite. The amphiboles are typically considered the most dangerous type of asbestos, and we will delve deeper into all types of asbestos within these groups later on in this article.

It is important to note that asbestos fibres do not dissolve or evaporate, meaning that they are resistant to fire and heat, along with chemical and biological degradation. These properties made them ideal for use within products, as a construction material for buildings and for insulation products. Due to the steady banning over asbestos overtime, the amount and type of asbestos found in these scenarios will differ, which is why it is imperative to have certain surveys conducted on properties and buildings that you own. You can find out more about these surveys here.

Six types of Asbestos

Amphibole Mineral Family

Five types of asbestos belong to the amphibole family. These varieties have sharp, straight chain-like structures that are easily inhaled.

Actinolite Asbestos

This type of asbestos is typically dark in colour, with sharp, needle like fibres that are easily inhaled when disturbed and sent airborne. Actinolite has a make up of other materials including magnesium, iron and silicone, and it was previously used in materials like cement, paints, sealants and insulation materials.

Grunerite (commonly known as Amosite Asbestos)

This type of asbestos is also known as brown asbestos and is regarded as one of the most hazardous types due to the sharp, pale brown needle-like fibres.  These fibres have moderate tensile strength, offer good chemical resistance and account for roughly 3% of asbestos used commercially.  Interestingly the brand Amosite comes from the Asbestos Mines of South Africa, which is the AMOS part of the name.  However, the correct term is actually Grunerite.

Anthophyllite Asbestos

Another easily inhaled type of asbestos fibre types is anthophyllite.  This is composed of long fibres and is mainly produced from mines in Finland and Japan. The fibre type ranges from brown to yellow in colour and is actually one of the rarer types of lesser asbestos.

Crocidolite Asbestos

Crocidolite asbestos, also known as blue asbestos due to its colour, is considered the most hazardous type of fibre in asbestos family. It is made up of extremely sharp and fine pale blue fibres that are particularly difficult for your body to break down.  Studies show that crocidolite is so hazardous, it is probably responsible for more illnesses and deaths than any other type of asbestos.

Crocidolite was used frequently in commercial, industrial and maritime products due to its natural properties which include fire resistance, chemical resistance, natural insulation and its ability to repel water hydrophobic).  Crocidolite is believed to account for roughly 6% of the world’s asbestos.  

Tremolite Asbestos

This lesser type of asbestos can range in colour from white to dark green but is still a long sharp fibre.  Tremolite can be infrequently  found in paints, sealants and roofing materials.  Testing of talc and vermiculite has often shown trace amounts of tremolite asbestos. For instance, testing of some talc cosmetic products sold at Claire’s found tremolite asbestos. This sparked concern as these makeup products are marketed to children.  Tremolite asbestos also contaminated the vermiculite mines in Libby, Montana, which led to widespread exposure in the city.

Serpentine Mineral Family

Chrysotile asbestos, commonly known as white asbestos, is the only fibre which falls into the serpentine family. The fibre is made up of curled fibres and has a staggered and layered structure which is distinctively differ to amphiboles.

Chrysotile Asbestos

Chrysotile asbestos is the most commonly used variety of asbestos fibre and is believed to account for 95% of the world’s asbestos commercially.  This is mainly due to its natural properties, which include heat resistance and a high tensile strength.  The latter means that the fibres are flexible and can be woven into fabric for the creation of blankets, textiles and clothing. 

Get An Asbestos Survey From Fibre Safe Today

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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