What is Asbestos?

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Asbestos refers to a set of six naturally occurring silicate minerals used commercially for their desirable physical properties. The main properties of asbestos are:

  • Resistance to chemicals and heat
  • High tensile toughness
  • Low energy conductivity
  • Flexibility

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 (CAR 2012), give specific guidance on who the duty holder is for buildings and how asbestos should be managed.

There are three main types of asbestos used in the UK:

Amosite

Amosite is found most frequently used as a fire retardant in thermal insulation products in asbestos insulating board and in ceiling tiles. Amosite is also known as brown asbestos, Amosite is the most common type of asbestos within the amphibole collection and has been commercially mined from South Africa. Under a microscope it can be seen as a grey-white vitreous fibre.

Chrysotile

The most common use of chrysotile has been in corrugated asbestos cement roof sheets often used for outbuildings, garages and warehouses. Chrysotile is also known as white asbestos. Chrysotile is a member within the group of minerals known as serpentine. Chrysotile is more flexible than the amphibole types of asbestos and can be spun and woven into fabric.

Crocidolite

Crocidolite is one of the deadliest forms of Asbestos. It is often applied as sprayed insulation. Crocidolite is a member of the amphibole collection and is often known as blue asbestos. Crocidolite commonly occurs as soft friable fibres. Asbestiform amphibole may also occur as soft friable fibres but some varieties such as amosite are commonly straighter.