Background & History of Asbestos Use

asbestosAsbestos is, by definition, “a group of naturally occurring minerals.” These minerals are hydrated silicates, crystalline in structure, and occur as parallel bundles of fibers. Asbestos minerals are divided into two classifications, the Serpentine group and the Amphibole group.

The Serpentine group is characterized by a lattice structure. It contains Chrysotile, which is a white asbestos composed of fine and silky fibers. Chrysotile comprises approximately 93% of total asbestos usage.

The Amphibole group is characterized by chained silicates. It contains Amosite (brown asbestos), Crocidolite (blue asbestos), Tremolite (white asbestos), Anthophylite and Actinolite which are composed of brittle fibers and comprises approximately 7% of total asbestos usage.

Asbestos has been in wide use throughout the world since the turn of the century. The use of asbestos has reduced relatively over the years due to health effects. Asbestos is non-combustible, noise absorber and a good thermal insulator. Asbestos products are used in asphalt/mastic flooring, vinyl floor tile, sheet flooring, paving, break linings, gaskets, thermal insulation, fire proofing, cement pipes and sidings.

Health Effects Associated with Asbestos Exposure

Asbestos related diseases are caused by inhalation or ingestion of asbestos fibers. The lungs are the primary site of adverse health effects. The three specific diseases which have been linked to asbestos exposure are:

  1. Asbestosis (fibrous scarring lung tissue) with latency period of 20-40 years.
  2. Lung Cancer with latency period of 20-40 years.
  3. Mesothelioma (tumors in the lining of the chest or abdominal cavity) with latency period of 20-40 years.