What is asbestos?
Asbestos is the generic term for a wide range of naturally occurring minerals that crystallise to form long thin fibres and bundles.
The most common types are:
- The serpentine group, which includes chrysotile (white asbestos) which has been the most frequently mined.
- The amphiboles which include crocidolite (blue asbestos) and amosite (brown asbestos).
Why was it used?
The fibres have high tensile strength, and chemical, electrical and heat resistance – properties that made asbestos extremely useful as a building/insulation material. Asbestos has been used extensively in Great Britain and throughout the world.
Back to top
Why is it a problem?
Inhalation of asbestos fibres can lead to serious diseases such as lung cancer, mesothelioma (a cancer of the linings of the lungs or lower digestive tract) and asbestosis (a chronic fibrosis of the lungs).
Many cases of these diseases occurring now are a result of exposure in industries that used asbestos extensively in the past. However, the fact that asbestos was also installed in many buildings means that a wider range of people still have the potential to be exposed – particularly building and maintenance workers.
Back to top
Unusual uses of asbestos
Below are some examples of unusual historical uses of asbestos. Asbestos was used ubiquitously throughout the 1950′s and early 60′s.