What are the 6 types of asbestos?

Last Updated on 18th June 2020 by Kirsty Smithson

What are the 6 types of asbestos?

There are 6 main types of asbestos that are known as chrysotile, amosite, crocidolite (the 3 that are most often used) and anthophyllite, tremolite and actinolite.

Asbestos is the collective name given to all 6 of these mineral types.

These asbestos minerals can actually be divided into two different types, which are serpentine and amphibole.

Each differs in their physical appearance and characteristics.

Serpentine asbestos develops in a layered or tiered form, whereas amphibole asbestos has a chain like structure and appearance.

As mentioned above, the 3 main types of asbestos you will probably be most familiar with are chrysotile, amosite and crocidolite.

That is because these 3 minerals are the ones that have been used most extensively in commercial building materials over the years.

Let’s look at all 6 different types of asbestos and see how they differ, starting with the 3 that are most common:-

Chrysotile asbestos

Otherwise known as ‘white asbestos’, chrysotile is the most commonly used form of all the different types of asbestos.

So much so that this type of asbestos accounts for around 90 percent of commercially used asbestos in the world.

Chrysotile is the only one of the asbestos types belonging to the serpentine group. 

Chrysotile asbestos fibers are white in colour and appear long and curly.

You will find Chrysotile contained within lots of buildings that were constructed pre 1999, when it was eventually banned in the UK.

It can be commonly found in asbestos corrugated cement products in roofs of outbuildings, garages and warehouses.

But it may also be found in residential properties in either in sheets or panels used for ceilings and sometimes for walls and floors.

This kind of asbestos was also a popular choice for manufacturers who made brake linings for vehicles, boiler seals, gaskets and also insulation for pipes, ducts and appliances.

As it is very flexible, it can be spun and woven into fabric, which was another reason it proved popular.

Chrysotile is one of the 6 different kinds of asbestos
Chrysotile asbestos fibers

Amosite asbestos

Amosite is also commonly known as the ‘brown asbestos’ due to its appearance and was most commonly used in the manufacture of cement sheets and pipe insulation.

Amosite asbestos belongs to the amphibole group and its fibers are straight in appearance as opposed to curly.

You will also find amosite contained within building materials such as insulating board, thermal insulation products and ceiling tiles.

Amosite asbestos is one of the types of asbestos that is most commonly used
Amosite asbestos fibers

Crocidolite asbestos

The 3rd most common of the asbestos types is Crocidolite, otherwise known as the ‘blue asbestos’ or by it’s other name ‘Riebeckite’.

Crocidolite also belongs to the amphibole group and its asbestos fibers are blue in colour and straight in appearance.

It was frequently used to insulate steam engines, and also used in some spray-on coatings, cement products, plastics and pipe insulation.

crocidolite asbestos fibers

Anthophyllite asbestos

Much less common than the likes of asbestos types chrysotile, amosite and crocidolite, anthophyllite wasn’t used commercially.

But it was used in small quantities for the likes of insulation products and some construction materials.

This asbestos type also occurs as a contaminant in chrysotile, talc and vermiculite.

Anthophyllite asbestos minerals can appear as brown, green, white, transparent or grey.

Anthophyllite is a much less common asbestos
Anthophyllite asbestos fibers

Tremolite and Actinolite asbestos

These 2 types of asbestos are also not commonly used commercially, although, like anthophyllite, tremolite and actinolite occur as contaminants in chrysotile, talc and vermiculite.

Tremolite asbestos fibers can vary in colour and appear either brown, gray, white or green.

And just like other types of asbestos, tremolite can appear translucent.

Tremolite asbestos fibers

Actinolite asbestos looks like dark green crystals in appearance.

The mineral has been found in paints, children’s toys, sealants and more.

actinolite asbestos fibers

Which is the most dangerous of these asbestos types?

All 6 types of asbestos described above have their physical and chemical differences.

But all asbestos types are equally hazardous to our health if exposed to them and can cause asbestos related cancers.

Therefore, no level of exposure is considered to be safe.

However, when it comes to the most dangerous asbestos types, some argue white asbestos (chrysotile) is the most dangerous, while others argue that blue asbestos (crocidolite) is most dangerous.

In response to this, we would say chrysotile poses a much smaller risk to health than other types of asbestos in the amphibole family of minerals.

Reason being that due to the small structure of the asbestos fibers, they can be breathed out more easily if inhaled, meaning they’re less likely to become trapped in the lungs.

To back this up, the Health Protection Agency in the U.K. claim that amphibole varieties of asbestos are the most dangerous forms.

So another words, these include asbestos types amosite, crocidolite, tremolite and actinolite.

We would argue that out of all of these types of asbestos, crocidolite asbestos is the most dangerous form of commercially used asbestos above all the others.

Crocidolite asbestos fibers are most dangerous due to their short and spikey composition.

Meaning they tend to puncture the lining of the lungs more easily, and they are also more difficult to breathe out if inhaled because of their composition.

What disease is caused by these asbestos types?

All types of asbestos can increase the risk of lung disease if people are exposed to them.

There are three different types of asbestos related lung disease which are asbestosis caused by scarring, pleural disease, a non cancerous disease of the tissue of the lining of the surface of the lung, and mesothelioma, a lung cancer of the lungs or their outer lining tissue.

Asbestosis is caused by asbestos fibers entering and scarring the lung tissue.

Malignant mesothelioma is directly linked to asbestos exposure and is a cancer affecting the pleura (tissue lining of the lung) or peritoneum (abdomen).

Asbestos cancer symptoms may not manifest until some 10 to 50 years following initial asbestos exposure.

Studies have indicated that smokers who have also been exposed to asbestos may find that they are at increased risk of developing asbestosis a lot sooner.

Diagnosis of an asbestos related lung disease or cancer is usually made by taking chest X-rays or CT scans of the lungs.

Various treatments are available for patients suffering from an asbestos related disease including vaccinations, stopping smoking, treatment for lung infections and the use of oxygen.

We can’t stress enough just how dangerous any of these asbestos types can be if a person is exposed to them over time.

So if you suspect your home or building contains any of these types of asbestos and you are planning on doing any kind of DIY, home renovation or demolition, get in touch for some expert advice on how the asbestos should be handled and dealt with.

Duty holders and employers have a legal responsibility to manage asbestos in their properties, carrying out an asbestos survey in their building so as not to put employees at risk.

So make sure you contact our Armco office to arrange asbestos testing or an asbestos survey, before it’s too late! 

Whether you need an asbestos management survey, or a refurbishment/ demolition survey, contact us on 0161 763 3727 or by visiting https://www.armco.org.uk/

Finally, for all your asbestos training needs call 0161 761 4424 or visit https://www.armcoasbestostraining.co.uk/to book an asbestos awareness training course.

Published Oct 29, 2018

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