What is Asbestos

Asbestos is a term that refers to six naturally occurring silicate minerals. The compositions of all six minerals are long, thin and fibrous. Each and every fiber is again composed with microscopic fibrils. These fibrils can be released into the air by many processes. Abrasion is most common among them.

What is Asbestos:


Asbestos is a term that refers to six naturally occurring silicate minerals. The compositions of all six minerals are long, thin and fibrous. Each and every fiber is again composed with microscopic fibrils. These fibrils can be released into the air by many processes. Abrasion is most common among them.

Asbestos fibers are so flexible and thin that it can be woven easily. The basic qualities of asbestos are heat resistance and electric insulation. Because of these qualities asbestos was used in the 1900-2000s as a building material and other commercial products all over the world.

Now it is well known because of its health hazards. Inhaling asbestos fibers for a long period of time can lead us to various kinds of diseases. Such as, asbestosis, pleural inflammation, and lung cancer, mesothelioma. Scientific research proved that mesothelioma is the only cancer that happens if an individual was exposed to asbestos and inhaled microscopic asbestos particle for over a long period of time.

Many industries such as automobile, manufacturing, mining, construction, power and chemical industries used and still use the deadly mineral for decades. Armed forces and military are one of the major consumers of asbestos till now.  However many developed countries stopped using this mineral and there are agencies that detect asbestos from a building and remove it efficiently.

Source of Asbestos:

Asbestos can be found all over the world. Typically it can be found on the surface of the earth. In asbestos mine first they remove the very first layer of earth by blast or drills and then they remove the natural rock or ore that contains asbestos and by crushing or grinding the ore they extract the asbestos for use. The major exporters of asbestos are Russia, China, Brazil and Kazakhstan.

Prehistoric age:

Archaeological studies proves the possible use of asbestos in the stone age that is 4000 BC. Long thin fibers of asbestos are heat resistant and people back then used it as a wick in a lamp.

The word asbestos came from ancient greek. The word actually means “inextinguishable”. Therefore the substance used in lamps is a wick that never burns up. This is the source of asbestos and there are other ideas as well about the entomology of asbestos.

Gradually asbestos started to spread all over the world. In Finland around 3000BC used asbestos for strengthening earthen pots.

In ancient Egypt asbestos was used as a cover of dead bodies to protect them from worsening.

Even in the ancient era people got sick by inhaling asbestos fibers. In europe they used to call it “salve disease”. Because most of the affected people were poor.

Middle age:

In the middle age asbestos was mainly used for aicd and fire resistance. In the middle ages several wars happened. Asbestos was woven as a fabric and  the soldiers used it as a body protection. They used it as a cloth lining in the armour and as a paper for writing important news.

Industrial age:

The 19th century was the period when industries started to grow because of the industrial revolution and large scale mining of asbestos was also begun at that time. Mining of asbestos started all over the world. During this time the commercial application of asbestos started.

During world war I and II asbestos used almost everywhere in the camp constructions.

Gradually it became a common building material and other industries used it as well.

Current situation:

Nowadays asbestos is restricted in most of the developed countries. Still the most construction that happened in the 1950s to 1980s has asbestos in various forms. Such as :

  • Roof sheetings.
  • Floor tiles.
  • Fireplace area.
  • Plaster.
  • Texture coating. Etc.

Types of Asbestos:

The EPA, Environmental Protection Agency recognised six naturally occurring minerals and divided those into two groups.

  • Amphibole.
  • Serpentine.

The fibers of the amphibole group are long, thin and straight. It is well known as blue or brown asbestos.

There are five types in this category.

  • Crocidolite.
  • Amosite.
  • Anthophyllite.
  • Tremolite.
  • actinolite.
  • Serpentine:

The fibers of the serpentine group are long, thin and curly. It is so thin and flexible that it can be woven as fabric. There is only one member in this group.

  • Chrysotile.
Industries that uses asbestos:

There are so many industries that use asbestos on a regular basis and the workers are at high risk and exposed to the deadly minerals.

Mining Industries:

Minerals like talc are very likely to get contaminated because talc and asbestos can be found in the same place.

Power plants:

Asbestos is a great electric insulator. This is the reason most of the powerplant uses it.

Construction companies:

Asbestos cement, floor tiles filler, roof sheeting, pipes, fireplace protective sheets, electric insulator are the most common asbestos products used in construction sites.


While building ships workers were very likely exposed to this toxic mineral. Fire proofing and electric insulation was the main area where asbestos was used widely.

Tile installation:

In many places asbestos is used as a filler while installing tiles on the wall.

Asbestos removal companies:

While removing asbestos from any construction sites they are at high risk of exposure.

Health risks:

Medical studies proved that exposure to the asbestos and inhaling asbestos dust for a long period of time can be very dangerous and it can lead us to various health conditions.

There are 4 types of cancer and other asbestos diseases that can happen.


The only cause of this deadly cancer is asbestos. Inhaling asbestos for a long time can lead us to asbestosis and asbestosis gradually transforms into mesothelioma.

Lung cancer:

It can take over a decade to show the symptoms of lung cancer but it takes only a few months to spread. While inhaling asbestos dust the microscopic particles get stuck into the lung tissues and increases the risk of cancer.

Laryngeal cancer:

Laryngeal cancer affects the larynx that is our voice box. During the inhaling process asbestos dust and particles can get stuck in our larynx. If it get stuck for over a long period there is a high chance of developing cancer tissues.

Ovarian cancer:

There is a chance of developing ovarian cancer if people are using asbestos contaminated talcum powder.

Asbestos related other diseases:

There are several non cancerous diseases that can happen if an individual is exposed to asbestos for a long period of time.


Asbestosis is a type of inflammation in the lung tissues. It can happen if the asbestos particles are stuck in the lung tissues for a long time.


Pleurisy is also an inflammation that occurs in pleura. Inhaling asbestos can lead us to pleurisy.

After all these health hazards lots of countries are still using this deadly mineral in day to day business. On the other hand, lots of developed countries such as Australia, United Kingdom have completely stopped using Asbestos. There are regulations and laws to follow while dealing with asbestos.

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