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What are the different types of Asbestos?

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Are your employees exposed to asbestos in certain environments?  
Workers and supervisors must be able to recognise asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) and how to approach them, in order to protect themselves and others. It is essential that employees are also aware of the different types and how to spot them, and we have compiled some information on this below.  

Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that has been widely used in construction materials due to its heat-resistant and fire-resistant properties.  

All types of asbestos can be hazardous if they are disturbed, and the fibers are released into the air. Inhaling asbestos fibers can lead to serious health conditions, such as lung cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestosis. It is important to take precautions when working with or around asbestos-containing materials and to seek professional help if you suspect that you have been exposed to asbestos. 

The two main types of asbestos found in the UK are chrysotile (white asbestos) and amphibole asbestos, which includes crocidolite (blue asbestos), amosite (brown asbestos), tremolite, anthophyllite, and actinolite. 

Chrysotile asbestos was the most used type of asbestos in the UK. It was used in a wide range of construction materials, such as cement, insulation, roofing sheets, and pipes. Chrysotile asbestos is still present in many buildings in the UK that were built or refurbished before the year 2000. 

Amphibole asbestos, on the other hand, was less commonly used in the UK but was still used in a variety of construction materials, such as insulation, ceiling tiles, and cement products. Crocidolite and amosite are the most commonly found types of amphibole asbestos in the UK. 

The main difference between chrysotile and amphibole asbestos is their physical and chemical properties. Chrysotile fibers are curly and more flexible, while amphibole fibers are straight and more brittle. Amphibole fibers are also thinner and more needle-like than chrysotile fibers, which makes them more likely to penetrate the lungs and cause health problems. 

There are various types of asbestos minerals, which are classified into two groups based on their physical and chemical properties. The first of the two groups are serpentine asbestos which includes only one type of asbestos mineral, which is chrysotile.  

Also known as white asbestos, Chrysotile is the most common type of asbestos. It is a curly, white fiber that is softer and more flexible than other types of asbestos. It is commonly used in roofing materials, insulation, and brake pads. 

The second is amphibole asbestos. This group includes five types of asbestos minerals, which are amosite, crocidolite, tremolite, anthophyllite, and actinolite. These types of asbestos minerals have straight, needle-like fibers that are more brittle and less flexible than chrysotile asbestos. 

The different types of amphibole asbestos minerals are usually identified by their color: 

  • Amosite (brown asbestos): This type of asbestos is found mainly in South Africa and is used in thermal insulation products, cement sheets, and pipe insulation. 
  • Crocidolite (blue asbestos): This type of asbestos is found mainly in South Africa and Australia and is used in insulation, cement sheets, and spray-on coatings. 
  • Tremolite (white, green, or gray asbestos): This type of asbestos is found in many parts of the world and is often found in talc and vermiculite products. 
  • Anthophyllite (gray or green asbestos): This type of asbestos is found mainly in Finland and is used in some insulation products. 
  • Actinolite (gray, green, or white asbestos): This type of asbestos is found mainly in Canada and is used in some insulation products. 

At CoreGenic, asbestos training is part of our range of training topics, and we will work closely with your business to ensure your employees are fully informed about the hazards of asbestos, and how to prevent its effects. Contact us today.