There are six asbestos types which fall into two asbestos classes; serpentine and amphibole asbestos families. The classification does not focus on the mineral description but the uniqueness of the fibers which make up the asbestos groups.
Serpentine asbestos is characterized by curly fibers which are made up of sheets of crystals. There is one asbestos type in this family:
- Chrysotile asbestos it is commonly referred to as white asbestos. During the industrial history 95% of all asbestos was made up of the chrysotile variations. Exposure to chrysotile asbestos causes a number of serious health conditions. Natural chrysotile deposits contain tremolite asbestos which is more toxic than chrysotile asbestos.
Some uses of chrysotile asbestos are:
- Brake lining
- Pipe insulation
- Boiler seals
Out of the two asbestos classes amphibole asbestos is characterized by straight and longer fibers. Research shows it takes less exposure to amphibole asbestos to cause mesothelioma than to serpentine asbestos. There are five asbestos types in this family:
- Amosite asbestos also known as brown asbestos. It originates in Africa and has needle like fibers. Exposure has a high risk of cancer compared to other asbestos types. Exposure can lead to lung cancer, mesothelioma and asbestosis.
Some uses of amosite asbestos are:
- Electrical, chemical, plumbing and thermal insulation
- Cement sheets
- Fire protection
2. Crocidolite asbestos also known as blue asbestos. This type of asbestos is responsible for more deaths as a result of its thin fiber characteristic. Its fibers are said to be about the diameter of a hair strand. Once inhaled and lodged in the lung lining, fibers lead to lung and abdominal conditions e.g. lung cancer, mesothelioma and asbestosis. The crocidolite fibers are brittle in nature and readily lead to asbestos exposure.
Some uses of crocidolite asbestos are:
- Cement sheets
- Electrical and telephone wires
- Spray on insulation
3. Tremolite asbestos the fibers of this type of asbestos are strong, flexible, heat resistant and can be woven into cloth.
Some uses of tremolite asbestos are:
- Plumbing materials
4. Anthophyllite asbestos – this type of asbestos has a lower risk of causing mesothelioma than other types of asbestos.
Some uses of anthophyllite asbestos are:
- Products containing vermiculite and talc. Talcum powder may have traces of anthophyllite.
5. Actinolite asbestos the name of this type of asbestos is from a Greek word meaning rays which is a characteristic of its radiating fibrous form. This type of asbestos is dark in color and can appear in various forms. Such forms are dense and compact or brittle and fibrous. There also a variety of colors like; white, gray, brown and green.
Some uses of actinolite asbestos are:
- Insulation materials
- Children’s toys