Today we know the many health dangers of asbestos. We know how it causes cancer and scarring of the lungs. But up until the 80s, it saw use in construction throughout the United States and it’s still used in several applications here and around the world. Many think that asbestos is manmade. After all, it’s asbestos fibers that are deadly and most construction fibers, such as those in fiberglass, are manmade. Therefore, you might be surprised to know that asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral. Let’s learn more about how asbestos is formed and how its natural occurrence has caused contributed to its problems.
How Asbestos Forms Naturally
Asbestos forms naturally as silicate minerals that have a crystal formation of thin and long (a roughly 1:20 ratio of thickness to length) fiber, each of which is composed of microscopic “fibrils” that are the cause of the health problems when they are released. Asbestos comes in six different types based on their chemical compositions. All forms of asbestos are carcinogenic:
- Crocidolite: Also known as blue asbestos, this type has very thin fibers and therefore can be more harmful than other types. However, it is used less due to its lower heat resistance.
- Chrysotile: Comprising over 90% of commercially used asbestos, chrysotile crystals are longer and curlier than other types of asbestos, as well as being more flexible than many.
- Tremolite: Often found in deposits of talc and vermiculite, it is famously known for its contamination of a vermiculite mine in Montana.
- Anthophyllite: Rarer than many forms and mostly mined in Finland, this type is also known as azbolen.
- Amosite: Mined in South Africa, amosite is more toxic than the widely-used chrysotile. Know sometimes as “brown asbestos,” it was commonly preferred in construction projects.
- Actinolite: This pale to dark green asbestos was commonly used to make insulation along with vermiculite. Some forms of this asbestos are gem-like and collected as such.
Natural Occurrence Explains Commercial Issues
Asbestos is a mineral and is mined as such. Mines exist throughout the world even today, and it can also be found alongside other materials. Because it is naturally occurring instead of being made in a factory, it isn’t just the case of manufacturing something else with the resources. Since these exist as natural resources, someone always wants to find an application, regardless of the dangers. This is why asbestos is being used, and is even alive and well as a construction material in many countries.
We hope this helped answer the question of how asbestos is formed. If you have questions about asbestos in your home or business, we urge you to contact us here at Fiber Control, Inc. We’re specialists in asbestos abatement in Massachusetts and New Hampshire, and we’re here to help.