Asbestos Facts

Most people today have heard about asbestos and the danger it poses to workers and miners who have been exposed to the substance in the past. There are several different types of asbestos, which are in two main groups. These asbestos facts will help you to understand the danger of various types of asbestos.

Serpentine asbestos is curly. The major form of serpentine asbestos is chrysotile fibers. This type of asbestos is white. The crystalline structure forms fine diameter threads that can be needle sharp, yet small enough to float in the air and be inhaled into the lungs of workers or miners. The substance has been banned in many countries. In the United States and Europe, chrysotile can be used only in very limited circumstances.

Amphibole asbestos has five different forms: amosite, crocidolite, anthophyllite, tremolite, and actinolite. The first two are the most dangerous. Amosite is brown asbestos. Amosite is actually a trade name, an acronym for Asbestos Mines of South Africa. The substance is also known as grunerite. Crocidolite is the most dangerous of amphibole asbestos. Crocidolite is also known as blue asbestos. This type of asbestos naturally tends to occur in bundles of crystals. When the bundles are broken, they break up into finer and finer threads. When they are small enough, they will float in the air and can then be inhaled into the lungs of any person unlucky enough to be working in the vicinity.

truth about asbestosIn spite of the fact that asbestos use has been banned in many countries, millions of tons are still produced annually around the globe. A dozen countries produce asbestos. Russia produces about forty percent of world supplies. China produces about twenty percent, followed by Kazakhstan, Canada and Brazil. In South Africa, many mines in the Transvaal are no longer producing.

It is a proven fact that workers in the areas where the mines are located suffer from a higher rate of lung cancer, mesothelioma and other lung diseases, many of which are fatal. Another group of affected workers are those who worked in shipyards. During the World War II years, asbestos was routinely used in wrapping many components such as steam pipes, boilers and turbine parts.

At the height of its popularity, asbestos was used for many different products, including ceiling tiles, floor tiles, pipe insulation, and electrical insulation. During World War II, thousands of tons of the substance were used to line boilers and to cover engine parts in the ships. Asbestos was used to line brake pads. Asbestos was used in the manufacture of bricks, fireplace cement, gaskets, pipes, roofing and lawn furniture. About 95 percent of the usage was related to the serpentine form of the asbestos. Of the amphibole type, most of the products used either chrysotile or amosite. The first cigarette filters, produced by Kent cigarettes, used a "Micronite" filter, which is made of asbestos.

Asbestos is a health concern for those who are occupationally connected to the asbestos industry or to the making of products that use asbestos. It usually occurs when the fibers have been breathed in over a long period of time. Family members get asbestos-related diseases at a higher rate than does the general population. Residents who live nearby also contract lung diseases at a higher rate than normal. The fibers are so small that they are difficult to see. They can be taken into the lungs and lie dormant for years before appearing as one of the asbestos-diseases.

The asbestos related disease with the highest mortality rate is mesothelioma. It is a type of lung cancer. Crocidolite is the most deadly of the asbestos types, but brown asbestos and white asbestos (chrysotile) also account for a number of deaths each year. Amongst those who worked in shipyards during and following World War II, it is estimated that the mortality rate for mesothelioma was about fourteen per thousand workers. In addition, people died from lung cancer and from asbestosis, an inflammatory lung disease.

Since asbestos does not deteriorate in the body, it is difficult, if not impossible to treat successfully. Another factor that affects the amount of exposure is the friability of the material containing asbestos. There is a measurement of how easily the materials containing asbestos can be broken or damaged with just finger pressure.

These are some of the asbestos facts that are of interest to individuals and family members of those exposed to the fibers. Periods of short exposure to moderate or light levels of asbestos in the air are not usually a problem. A single exposure is also less likely to result in one of the asbestos-related diseases. Damage to the lungs usually occurs after prolonged exposure to high levels of asbestos.

Asbestos Facts 

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