What Is Asbestos and Why Is It Such a Threat?

Asbestos is a white, brown or blue fibrous mineral that has plenty of useful applications, but it is a huge fatal carcinogen. There are six different types of asbestos. The three most common types of asbestos are:

Chrysotile – Also known as white asbestos this type originated in Canada. It comes from the serpentine rock. Its fibers are curled and less sharp. This type of asbestos poses less threats that other types of asbestos. This type is most commonly used industrially.

Amosite – This is called brown asbestos. It comes from the Amphibole rock. It has long jagged needle like fibers that are extremely dangerous when inhaled.

Crocidolite – This is called blue asbestos. It comes from the amphibole rock, which can be found in Australia and Africa. It is considered to be the most dangerous type of asbestos.

There are three other types of asbestos including tremolite, actinolite and anthophyllite.

Asbestos is most commonly used in industrial applications, but it is also used in some consumer products like talcum powder and vermiculite. For a long while asbestos was considered to be one of the world’s most valuable resources. It was very desirable because it was strong, durable and versatile. Asbestos was used in many products including lamp wicks, insulation and clothing.

In the 20th century medical technology became more advanced and doctors started to realize the affect asbestos had on the human body. Sadly, by the time doctors realized the dangers of asbestos millions of people had already been exposed to it. In the 1970s use of asbestos became regulated, so The amount of people affected by it declined.

Once society realized the dangers of asbestos many government agencies sought to limit or altogether ban its use. The United States Environmental Protection Agency monitors the use of asbestos and banned the use of asbestos in new products since 1989. However, other industrial nations like China and India have no regulations regarding the use of asbestos. They continue to use asbestos in products and construction.

Asbestos causes a type of cancer called Mesothelioma. Even thousands of years ago when the ancient Romans used asbestos they noted having breathing problems and general ill health after exposure to asbestos. Asbestos was commonly used in factories and it was used in brake shoes, cement, insulation and even in oven mitts. People that worked in shipyards were also commonly exposed to asbestos. Many of these people got cancer from working around asbestos.