Asbestos is a naturally forming mineral, which was commercially mined for its useful properties such as:
- Chemical resistance
- Heat resistance
- Low thermal conductivity
- High tensile strength.
According to the Health & Safety Executive, asbestos is responsible for more workplace deaths each year than any other cause. Diseases caused by inhaling asbestos fibres include lung cancer and mesothelioma. There is often a latency period of up to 40 years before any symptoms are shown, so exposure may not be apparent until much later.
The import and use of asbestos has been banned since 1999 in the UK.
Read about common materials which can contain asbestos.
There are six types of asbestos which are banned from use in the UK;
Also known as white asbestos. Chrysotile is cream, white or pale green in its raw state. Its soft curly fibres made it ideal for spinning and weaving, and it is alkali-resistant. Chrysotile is by far the most commonly mined and used type in the world.
Also known as brown asbestos or fibrous grunerite. Amosite is brown or black when raw. Processed fibres appear to be grey or brown and are straight and needle-like. It is hydrophobic which made it useful in products which needed to dry quickly.
Also known as blue asbestos or fibrous riebeckite. Crocidolite fibres are a distinctive blue and are flexible enough to be spun and woven like chrysotile. It has the highest tensile strength and is highly acid resistant. Crocidolite is considered to be the most harmful of the fibre types.
Other Asbestos Types
There are three other forms of asbestos which are banned in the UK. These are anthophylite, tremolite and actinolite. These fibres are quite rare and were mostly used in bespoke applications because the fibres were too weak for most applications.