Asbestos is a set of six naturally occurring silicate minerals used commercially for their desirable physical properties.
- Resistance to chemicals as well as heat
- Low energy conductivity
- High tensile toughness
The European Union has banned all use of asbestos, as well as the extraction, manufacture, and processing of asbestos products. The Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012, give specific guidance on who the duty holder is for buildings and how asbestos should be managed.
Asbestos can be bonded straight into various building materials as well as woven straight into textiles. It even now remains probably the most effective form of fire protection available.
Primarily in the UK there are three main types of asbestos used:
Called 'brown' asbestos, Amosite is the most common member with the amphibole collection and has been commercially mined within South Africa. Amosite is seen under a microscope as a grey-white vitreous fiber. It is found most frequently as a fire retardant in thermal insulation products, asbestos insulating board and ceiling tiles.
Popularly known as ' white' asbestos, Chrysotile is a member with the group of minerals known as serpentine. Chrysotile is more flexible than amphibole types of asbestos, and can be spun and woven into fabric. Its most common use has been in corrugated asbestos cement roof sheets typically used for outbuildings, warehouses and garages.
Crocidolite is another member of the amphibole collection and popularly known as ' blue' asbestos. Crocidolite commonly occurs as soft friable fibers. Asbestiform amphibole may also occur as soft friable fibers but some varieties such as amosite are commonly straighter. Commonly applied as sprayed insulation, Crocidolite is seen as one of the most deadly forms of Asbestos.