Types of Asbestos

Asbestos is a general term that refers to a group of six fibrous minerals, including tremolite asbestos, anthophyllite asbestos, actinolite asbestos, crocidolite asbestos, chrysotile asbestos, and amosite asbestos. All commercial forms of asbestos have been classified as human carcinogens. Under the law, there are two types of materials that contain asbestos: bonded asbestos-containing materials and friable asbestos-containing materials. Exposure to asbestos is the most important factor responsible for the development of mesothelioma, lung cancer, gastrointestinal cancer, and asbestosis.

What Is Asbestos?

This naturally-occurring mineral was renowned for its flexibility, strength, and resistance to heat. There are six different types of asbestos, but only three of them are used commercially (crocidolite, chrysotile, and amosite). Because of its high degree of toxicity, asbestos has been banned in 52 countries. This material was commercially used in hundreds of manufactured goods, including cement, textiles, auto parts, textured paints, wallboard, paint, adhesives, sponge blocks, and roofing materials.

Due to its chemical and heat-resistant properties, asbestos was used as a building material. This mineral has a tendency to separate into microscopic particles that can be easily ingested or inhaled. These tiny fibers become trapped into the lungs, causing scarring and inflammation of the tissue affected.


Most cases of asbestos and mesothelioma occur 20 to 50 years after initial exposure to asbestos. Asbestos fibers can also be released from rocks by natural weathering processes or routine human activities. Exposure to asbestos may cause lung disease and changes in pleura. Tremolite asbestos exposure has been linked with an increased risk of cancer in vermiculite miners.

Types of Asbestos

Amosite, tremolite, crocidolite, actinolite, and anthophyllite belong to the amphibole class, while chrysotile belongs to the serpentine class. These two categories of minerals have different degrees of potency as health hazards. Chrysotile is the only type of asbestos that is still used on a large scale. From a commercial point of view, crocidolite and amosite are the most valuable types of asbestos.

Chrysotile (White) Asbestos

Chrysotile is a fibrous silicate mineral that accounts for over 95 percent of all asbestos mined annually. This type of asbestos belongs to the serpentine family and consists of soft and flexible fibers that can withstand heat. These fibers are curly as opposed to those from tremolite, anthophyllite, amosite, actinolite, and crocidolite.

Chrysotile fibers are very flexible and can woven into fabric. They are excellent thermal, acoustic, and electrical insulators. The main source of white asbestos comes from Quebec, Canada. This type of asbestos was used in the manufacture of cement, textiles, pipes, clutches, and brake shoes.

Amosite (Brown) Asbestos

Also known as brown asbestos or Grunerite, amosite was used as a fire retardant in ceiling tiles, roofing products, cement sheets, and thermal insulation products. This mineral belongs to the Amphibole group and has harsh fibers with good tensile strength. Amosite is quite rare and originates in South Africa. Like other types of asbestos, it is believed to cause malignant mesothelioma and lung cancer. Brown asbestos has high iron content and accounts for about 5 percent of all asbestos used in commercial buildings.

Crocidolite (Blue) Asbestos

Crocidolite or blue asbestos comes from Africa and Australia. This amphibole occurs as soft friable fibers that are resistant to heat, fire, and chemical damage. Exposure to these fibers may cause a number of deadly diseases such as lung cancer, pleural and peritoneal mesothelioma, and asbestosis. Crocidolite accounts for approximately 4 percent of all asbestos used in the United States. This mineral ranges in color from deep blue to gray.

Crocidolite fibers occur in naturally-formed bundles and are flexible enough to bend beyond 90 degrees before breaking. Statistics show that over 18 percent of those who worked with products containing blue asbestos have died of mesothelioma. Experts believe that crocidolite is the most dangerous type of asbestos.

Asbestos Exposure and Mesothelioma

There is no doubt about the association between malignant mesothelioma and asbestos exposure. Asbestos fibers are not visible to the naked eye, and their small size allows them to remain airborne for extended periods of time. When inhaled, these fibers make their way to the lungs, heart, or abdominal cavity. Most cases of asbestos cancer are diagnosed 30 years or more after exposure.

All types of asbestos can cause mesothelioma and asbestosis. If you have been exposed to or worked with asbestos-containing products, contact a mesothelioma doctor. We can help you get in touch with the best mesothelioma specialists and receive proper treatment. Fill in the form below to receive free mesothelioma information.

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