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How Many Types of Asbestos Exist and How Are They Different?

“Asbestos” is a term most adults have heard in Oregon and across the United States. Even those who don’t know exactly what the substance is or how it is used in industry have read news stories or seen television commercials mentioning asbestos and mesothelioma. So, what exactly is asbestos and does it come in only one form? We’ll answer those questions in this article.

Defining Asbestos

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, there actually are six fibrous minerals with commercial uses that are generically referred to as “asbestos.” These minerals share several properties that historically made them popular in business and industry. They are cheap, non-flammable, resistant to chemicals, have tremendous tensile strength, and are electrical and thermal resistant. The types of asbestos are:

  • Actinolite Asbestos – Dark colored asbestos that includes other minerals such as silicon, calcium, and iron. Used in cement and a number of construction products.
  • Amosite – Brown asbestos mined mostly in South Africa. This was the second most common asbestos used in the United States.
  • Anthophyllite Asbestos – This rarer form of asbestos can range from a yellowish color to brown. It contains mostly iron and magnesium.
  • Chrysotile – This asbestos is favored for having flexible fibers to go along with its heat-resistance. It makes up 90-95 percent of asbestos used in U.S. construction. Today, almost all asbestos produced is chrysotile. It is still mined in Russia, Italy, and Canada.
  • Crocidolite – This blue asbestos is particularly dangerous. It has very fine fibers that are easy to inhale.
  • Tremolite Asbestos – This asbestos can range from white to dark green in color. It is no longer mined, but can be present in other minerals, such as talc.

Asbestos-Related Statistics

According to a lengthy 2014 World Health Organization (WHO) report, 107,000 people die every year around the world from asbestos-related diseases. The report notes that half of deaths from occupational cancer are caused by asbestos. Exposure to asbestos can cause the following:

  • Mesothelioma
  • Ovarian cancer
  • Lung cancer
  • Larynx cancer
  • Asbestosis

Dangers to Humans

Some contend that limited exposure to asbestos in its natural mineral form is not dangerous. However, the WHO states that all forms of asbestos are harmful to humans, and many health care providers agree that exposure should be eliminated.

Everyone agrees that asbestos becomes highly dangerous when fibers of the substance become airborne and are inhaled. This occurs when asbestos becomes friable, meaning that it can be crumbled. If the friable material is “disturbed,” the particles can then easily float through the air and be ingested or inhaled.

There are several ways that asbestos can be disturbed. For example, many older buildings were built with products containing asbestos. If a person saws, drills, sands, cuts, or hits a part of the building containing asbestos, the activity can release the particles into the air. When these particles are trapped in the body, they can cause the diseases and conditions previously discussed.

Who is in Danger?

Anyone who has worked around asbestos can suffer ill effects. Many construction workers, auto mechanics, custodians, dock workers, sailors, and firefighters, just to name a few, have suffered from long-term exposure to asbestos. Because asbestos-related disease can take years to fully develop, some people get sick decades after they were exposed to the mineral.

Call with Questions

For many years, some American companies took advantage of hard workers in Oregon and other parts of America by not protecting them from the dangers of asbestos. The law has now taken steps to hold such wrongdoers accountable for their actions. If you have questions about your rights, please call the experienced asbestos and mesothelioma lawyers at Nelson MacNeil Rayfield. We will be happy to answer them.