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Asbestos is a mineral and a fibre. Its unique properties and chemical inertness once gave it a reputation as one of the most useful and versatile minerals known to humanity. It is the only natural mineral that can be spun and woven like cotton or wool into useful fibres and fabrics.
“Asbestos” is a generic term given to what is actually several species of fibrous minerals that have been exploited commercially.
The species of fibrous minerals known as “asbestos” belong to two mineral groups:
- and Amphibole
Serpentine mineral group:
Chrysotile (white asbestos)
Has been commercially exploited in Canada, the United States, Zimbabwe, Russia, South Africa, Australia and elsewhere. Chrysotile has been used for insulation, friction materials (such as brake pads) and, fibre-reinforced composites (such as concrete).
Amphibole mineral group:
Crocidolite (blue asbestos)
Amosite (brown or grey asbestos)
It has been exploited commercially from deposits in South Africa, Finland and Australia (Wittenoom, W.A.)
Asbestos fibres from the amphibole mineral group are more carcinogenic than the serpentine minerals.
The amphibole asbestos forms will not dissolve in the lung during a lifetime. Therefore, the risk of developing asbestos-related cancer is greater with exposure to cocidolite and amosite.
Read more on asbestos below: