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White Asbestos

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What is white asbestos?

White asbestos, or chrysotile asbestos as it’s more commonly known, is one of the most widely used types of asbestos in the world.

Chrysotile has always been the main type of asbestos mined.

In 1979, which was its peak year of production, chrysotile comprised more than 90% of all asbestos mined.

It is derived from serpentine rocks and was used in a lot of common building materials, textiles, and other materials.

Chrysotile asbestos containing products include:-

Chrysotile fibers are white in colour, with a flexible and curly texture.

Chrysotile asbestos fibers are known for being very strong and flexible, which is why they were used for hundreds of years, by being spun into thread and woven into cloth.

They are also very heat resistant and have excellent thermal, electrical and acoustic properties.

It is these properties which made the use of chrysotile (white asbestos) so popular in the manufacture of textiles and building materials.

Although the most common use of white asbestos was in corrugated asbestos cement roofing which was used mainly for outbuildings, warehouses and garages.

It may also be found in sheets or panels used for internal ceilings and was sometimes used for walls and floors. 

Naturally occurring deposits of chrysotile are often accompanied by trace amounts of amphibole types of asbestos, which increase its toxicity. 

The import and use of chrysotile was banned in the UK in 1999. 

Is white asbestos safe?

Although not as dangerous as other forms of asbestos, Chrysotile (white asbestos) is classed as a carcinogen and therefore it is dangerous and there is serious risk of developing a life threatening illness.

Therefore, people should treat chrysotile asbestos with the same level of concern as with other forms of asbestos.

Although if left undisturbed and undamaged, then it is perfectly safe to leave in situ.

Asbestos only becomes dangerous when it is exposed or damaged, as that’s when the harmful fibers become released into the atmosphere and can be inhaled into the lungs.

Some organisations do still insist that white asbestos (chrysotile) isn’t dangerous to human health at all.

However, we would say, along with many other experts, that ALL forms of asbestos are dangerous and hazardous to health, and as such, asbestos should be banned in all countries.

Because it is the most widely used type of asbestos commercially, chrysotile accounts for the majority of cases of mesothelioma and other asbestos related diseases including cancer of the lung, cancer of the larynx and ovary and asbestosis.

Although mesothelioma is still classed as a rare disease, the number of cases is on the increase.

white asbestos fibers
white asbestos fibers

Which is the most dangerous type of asbestos?

Although all forms of asbestos are dangerous, some are more harmful to health than others.

All types of asbestos can cause cancer such as asbestosis, malignant mesothelioma, lung cancer, ovarian cancer, laryngeal cancer and other serious diseases.

The U.K Health Protection Agency claim that amphibole varieties of asbestos are the most dangerous forms of asbestos. 

Amiphibole asbestos has needle shaped fibers and includes amosite (brown asbestos) and crocidolite (blue asbestos).

Studies have shown that it takes much less exposure to amphibole asbestos to cause cancer.

Can white asbestos kill you?

It is estimated that around 30,000 people worldwide will have been diagnosed with mesothelioma cancer by the end of 2019.

Latest figures show that in 2018 the number of deaths worldwide from mesothelioma was 18,332 deaths in men and there were 7,244 deaths in women. Total number of deaths was 25,576.

Those figures are just for mesothelioma deaths alone…..

Collectively, the World Health Organization estimates that 107,000 people die every year across the world from an asbestos related disease such as mesothelioma, asbestosis and asbestos lung cancer.

In the UK alone, the Health and Safety Executive estimates the total number of asbestos related deaths to be around 5,000 deaths per year.

Where is asbestos banned?

All forms of asbestos have been banned from being imported and used within manufacturing in more than 55 countries around the world.

This includes Japan, Australia and all countries in the European Union.

Iceland was the first to ban asbestos imports due to health concerns in 1983, and Sweden soon followed suit.

Germany banned asbestos in 1992 and the UK eventually banned asbestos in 1999.

However, it continues to be used around the world, particularly in Asia and Russia, and in small amounts in the US.

Although asbestos has not been banned in the US, consumption did decrease from 668, 000 tonnes in 1970 to 359, 000 tonnes in 1980, 32, 000 tonnes in 1990, 11, 000 tonnes in 2000 and 10,000 tonnes in 2010.


Did you find this article interesting?  Then check out our other interesting articles below.

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.

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Published Apr 03, 2019
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