types of asbestos

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Asbestos Types

There are six types of asbestos minerals that occur naturally within the Earth's environment. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has classified the types as such:

Chrysotile : Chrysotile is one of the most common and most dangerous forms of asbestos found within our Earth. This type of asbestos accounts for approximately 90 percent of commercially-used asbestos in the world. Chrysotile asbestos fibers are long, white, and curly.

Amosite : Amosite asbestos is recognized by its straight fibers and brown color. Amosite asbestos contains iron and magnesium, and was most used within different types of insulation products. The EPA has determined amosite to be the second most used type of asbestos in the United States.

Crocidolite : Crocidolite takes the form of blue, straight fibers. It is a sodium iron magnesium silicate, and is considered to be the most dangerous type of asbestos due to its physical properties.

Tremolite : Tremolite asbestos fibers can be brown, gray, white or green, and like other types, can also be translucent. Tremolite was not mined or used commercially on its own, but could often be found contaminating other minerals, such as chrysotile, vermiculite and talc.

Anthophyllite : Like tremolite asbestos, anthophyllite minerals were not sought out for their commercial use, but instead found their way into products made with vermiculite and talc. The miners of vermiculite and talc are at high risk for developing asbestos-related diseases because of anthophyllite contamination within the substances they mined. Anthophyllite asbestos can range in color from white to gray to brown.

Actinolite : Actinolite asbestos appears as dark green crystals or fibrous aggregates. Like tremolite and anthophyllite, actinolite asbestos is often found as a contaminate within different commercial asbestos products. It has been found in paints, sealants, children's toys, and more.

While these six types of asbestos have physical and chemical differences, they are all known carcinogens proven to be hazardous to human health.

Is All Asbestos Dangerous?

While some types of asbestos may be more hazardous than others, all are dangerous. Leading health agencies, including the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the EPA and the International Agency for Research on Cancer, classify all types of asbestos as cancer-causing substances.

All of the identified forms of asbestos can cause asbestosis, malignant mesothelioma, lung cancer, ovarian cancer, laryngeal cancer and other serious diseases.

Some agencies, such as the Health Protection Agency in the U.K., claim crocidolite (blue asbestos) and amosite (brown asbestos) are the most dangerous forms. The EPA has abandoned projects aiming to identify which asbestos fiber types are the most toxic, citing that the overall regulation of asbestos and asbestiform minerals is a more pressing priority.
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