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From being used as an ancient magic cloth to a building material to becoming banned because of the damage it does to our health, this natural occurring silicate mineral has had a long and fascinating history. The mineral being referred to is Asbestos, but What Exactly Is Asbestos?

Asbestos contains minerals that have a thin fibrous form made up of thousands of microscopic fibrils that can be released into the air once brushed. They are commonly known by their colors of white, blue, brown, or green. There are six mineral types defined by the United States Environmental Protection Agency as asbestos; all of which are considered to be human carcinogens (substances that promote the creation of cancer) and include those belonging to the flexible Serpentine class and the needle-like Amphibole class.

Classifying Asbestos Types

Serpentine

Chrysotile is the only type of asbestos found in the serpentine class and it is the most commonly encountered form accounting for about ninety-five percent of asbestos found in the United States. It is obtained from serpentinite rocks and is used because it is more flexible than asbestos found in the amphibole class. The most common uses for it was cement roofing for outbuildings, garages, and warehouses; however, it has also been found in brake linings, fire barriers in fuse boxes, floor tiles, pipe insulation, gaskets for high-temperature equipment, and residential shingles.

Amphibole

Amosite, commonly known as Brown Asbestos, is rare and only mined out of South Africa. It is frequently found as a fire retardant in thermal insulation products, insulation boards, and ceiling tiles.

Crocidolite, commonly known as Blue Asbestos, is the fibrous form of Riebeckite and is primarily found in Southern Africa, Bolivia, and Australia. Blue asbestos was used in early gas masks and cigarette filters. It was deemed the most hazardous type of asbestos to humans when Doctor Christopher Wagner discovered a link between Blue Asbestos and mesothelioma.

Tremolite is mined primarily in India but is also found as a contaminant in other forms of asbestos-like chrysotile.

Anthophyllite can be found in Finland and Japan and is also known as azbolen asbestos.

Others

There are other minerals that are similar in structure to asbestos and found to be no less dangerous, but as they are not regulated, they are known as asbestiform.

Current State of Asbestos Production

In 2009, about nine percent of the world?s asbestos production was mined in Canada, but in 2011 the Canadian government halted all asbestos mining. Most recently, Russia has been the world?s leading producer with fifty-five percent of the world?s total followed by China with twenty percent, Brazil with sixteen percent, and Kazakhstan with eleven percent.

What Exactly Is Asbestos – Conclusion

So what is asbestos? It is a thin fibrous mineral made up of thousands of fibrils and was frequently used for its many great physical properties, but has been phased out because of its lethality to humans. If it was not extremely dangerous, we would not be plagued by commercials of lawyers chasing after cases referring to mesothelioma and cancers associated with it. Next, we will go more in depth of what asbestos was used for and what lead it to be phased out.

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