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Types of Asbestos

Asbestos refers to a class of minerals, and there are six different types of asbestos. They have different shapes and compositions, and some are more dangerous than others.
asbestos fibers

Two families; six minerals

The six types of asbestos can be divided into two families, depending on their shape:
  • The serpentine asbestos family has one member: chrysotile asbestos. These fibers are long, pliable and wavy.
  • The amphibole asbestos family has five members: crocidolite, anthophyllite, amosite, actinolite and tremolite. These fibers are straight and stiff.
Chrysotile asbestos was more widely used and is still not banned in the U.S. However, the Environmental Protection Agency recently proposed an action prohibiting its use. We often find this type of asbestos in materials like flooring, roofing and insulation. Amphibole asbestos types are used in a wide range of products and pose various dangers to people inhaling them. Generally speaking, crocidolite or blue asbestos is the most dangerous type. The materials containing crocidolite asbestos, like cement and concrete, are often brittle and break down easily, making it easier to inhale the stiff fibers.

Differences and similarities

The different types of asbestos may look different and have unique characteristics, but they are similar in some unfortunate ways.

All types of asbestos can cause severe damage to a person’s lungs and other organs if inhaled. Any of the fibers can lead to mesothelioma, lung cancer and other devastating illnesses.

That said, knowing the difference between these types of asbestos can be helpful when it comes to tracing exposure and identifying dangerous products.

Protecting against all asbestos exposure

Because asbestos continues to be in products, workers and employers must continue to be diligent about protecting against exposure to all types of the mineral.

This means providing and wearing protective gear, containing contaminated materials and properly removing asbestos from a site and workers. These measures can keep individuals and their families safer.

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