There are six different types of asbestos, which belong to either the serpentine or amphibole:
The most commonly used types of asbestos are Chrysotile, Amosite and Crocidolite.
Chrysotile, also known as ‘White Asbestos’ is the most commonly used type of asbestos. It is found in a wide range of products, from water tanks to vehicle brakes. It was used in products used in roofs, ceilings, walls and floors of homes. This asbestos is part of the serpentine mineral family, and has a curly appearance.
Amosite, also known as ‘Brown Asbestos’ was also commonly used for a wide number of products that were used in homes and commercial buildings. Research by the American Cancer Association found that exposure to Amosite creates a higher risk of cancer compared to other types of asbestos. It is part of the amphibole mineral family, and has needle like fibres.
Crocidolite, also known as ‘Blue Asbestos’, has the best heat resistance properties, and was commonly used for insulate materials exposed to extreme heat, including steam engines. Crocidolite has the thinnest fibres, and some studies predict that it has caused the most deaths, due to the fibres becoming airborne and lodging in the lungs. It is part of the amphibole mineral family, and has needle like fibres.
The cost of removing different types of asbestos can vary. Different types of asbestos are used for different products, so the applications range within different buildings. Some asbestos materials can be easily removed, such as roof tiles, whilst others are more heavily integrated into a building, such as decorative ceilings.
In some cases, encapsulation can provide a cheaper and more suitable solution, rather than removing the asbestos. Encapsulation involves coating the asbestos with a resin to ensure that the dangerous fibres are contained. This is used in circumstances where removal would pose a greater risk, or is not possible.
The people who are most at risk of the illnesses associated with asbestos are those who worked with, mined and live in properties containing asbestos. Whilst asbestos containing materials do not pose much of a health risk when they are in a good condition and left undisturbed, they can become a serious health hazard as they deteriorate or the fibres are disturbed.
Most people are exposed to some form of asbestos throughout their life, as it is present in the air, soil and water, but these are normally only very low levels, and do not pose much of a risk. It is people who are regularly exposed to asbestos who are most at risk.