The word “asbestos” itself sounds menacing. But what is asbestos? No, it is not a town in Canada that recently changed its name. We can best compare it with cancer. As cancer is infecting a human body and puts it in danger, in the same way functions asbestos. It lurks in the walls and floors of older buildings and can potentially destroy our health.
What is asbestos, and where can you find it?
It is a naturally occurring mineral (silicate) found on the earth’s surface. This group of six minerals, composed of soft and flexible fibers, can be found in rocks and soils. The six types that you can find are actinolite, amosite, anthophyllite, chrysotile, crocidolite, and tremolite.
These types fall into two categories: amphibole and serpentine asbestos. Chrysotile, which is also known as white asbestos, has curly fibers and belongs in the category of serpentine asbestos. The other five types belong in amphibole asbestos characterized by straight fibers with an irregular shape.
What does it look like? If you do some research online, you can find many pictures and conclude that most fibers are sharp and needle-like, and depending on the type, colors differ significantly. The fibers are not visible to the naked eye and can be seen and studied better using a microscope. The shape of the fiber depends on the type of mineral. Follow the link irwinasbestos.com.au/asbestos-removal-services/commercial-industrial-asbestos-removal/ to find out more.
Actinolite has a dark brown color and is characterized by sharp needle-like fibers. Calcium, iron, silicon, and magnesium can also be found among the main mineral. These compounds can be found in cement, paints, sealant, various types of insulation materials, and drywall. These materials are generally used in residential and commercial buildings.
Amosite, or also known as brown asbestos, is particularly resistant to heat. It has needle-like fibers which are brittle and very sharp. It is widely used to produce construction materials for fireproofing. In the United States, this is the second most used type. It’s generally used for thermal insulation production for walls, pipes, electrical equipment, chemical insulation, tiles, gaskets, roofing, and fireproof products.
Anthophyllite has long needle-like fibers and generally contains magnesium and iron. It has a brown or yellowish color and is one of the rarest types. These fibers are usually contained in cement and some insulation materials, but this type is not generally used for commercial products.
Chrysotile, as mentioned before, is called white asbestos, and has curly, intertwined fibers. It is the most common type used in the United States and is used to produce automotive parts and construction materials. It is lightweight and incombustible and hence used mainly for insulation products. It is generally found in cement, asphalt, rubber, textiles, plastics, gaskets, roofing products, brake pads and linings, and other materials.
Crocidolite is known as blue asbestos. It has fine, brittle, and very sharp fibers that are easy to inhale. It is considered as one of the main types to cause serious, death-leading illnesses. Sometimes it’s used in cement, tiles, and insulation products but is not as heat resistant as other types.
Tremolite is usually white or dark green and characterized by straight and sharp fibers containing a significant magnesium percentage. These fibers are found in vermiculite and talk deposits and are considered as their contamination source. It is usually found in insulation, sealants, roofing products, paints, plumbing material, and even talc-based cosmetic products.
Where does it come from?
Its use goes back as far as 4500 years, where people in Finland used the asbestos mineral anthophyllite as a strengthening substance for their pots and other kinds of kitchenware products. The world itself is derived from the Greek words “ἄσβεστος” (asbestos) and “ἀμίαντος” (amiantos), meaning unquenchable, inextinguishable, undefiled, and pure – which is a bit of ironic, don’t you think?
The mineral was once mined the most throughout North America, but it is essentially found anywhere in the world. Click here for more.
The asbestos industry took a big swing in the mid-19th century. Before its use was channeled into making products and materials for buildings, there was an early attempt to use this substance for paper and cloth production in Italy during the 19th century, which ended unsuccessfully. Today’s leading exporters are Russia, China, and Kazakhstan.
Which are the health concerns related to asbestos?
When you encounter this substance, it is crucial to remove it as quickly and safely as possible. A lot of buildings built in the 20th century still contain asbestos materials and house this dangerous threat. Well-equipped and trainer professionals should be contacted to remove this cancerous substance from your living or working place
Scientific research shows that asbestos exposure is linked to several illnesses. It has been proven that asbestos can cause cardiac failure and lead to cancer. The most common type of cancer caused by it is mesothelioma, and this mineral can also cause lung, ovarian and laryngeal cancer. Other related diseases are pleuritis, pleural effusions, pleural plaques, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), diffuse pleural thickening, and asbestosis.
When the twin towers collapsed on September 11th, 2001, New York City was engulfed with building debris. All kinds of building materials such as combustibles, lead, glass fibers, concrete, and asbestos were pulverized in a matter of seconds. This mixture of toxic materials exposed thousands of residents to a severe threat. When the towers collapsed to the ground, more than 1000 tons of asbestos was released into the surrounding air.
These fibers are a hundred times thinner than human hair and are invisible to the naked eye. Apart from that, they float for a long time in the air before being breathed into our lungs. The year-long cleanup exposed workers to these hazardous effects, which later lead to severe illnesses. Years after the collapse, cancer-related deaths skyrocketed.
How to avoid its icy fingers? You should always research and understand which products could contain this toxic substance, seek professional help for its handling and disposal and use alternative asbestos products when possible.