What is the purpose of Asbestos?

What is the purpose of Asbestos?

Asbestos is a mineral that occurs naturally and can withstand heat. The usage of Asbestos takes us back to ancient times when the mineral was considered royalty and, in ancient Egypt, the utilization of it was in funeral shrouds. Moreover, in the current world, Asbestos is widespread in various industries, such as automobiles, to make clutches and construction goods, such as cement.
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Amosite and chrysotile are some kinds of Asbestos, and the use of each kind is in various goods, although they look the same as they resemble a needle. Conversely, since exposure to the mineral leads to many health problems, utilization of Asbestos is prohibited in many countries. However, there are several techniques to halt the emergence of Asbestos-related diseases.

The History of Asbestos Use

In the days of old, Asbestos was royalty. Charlemagne would use a dinner cloth, which was composed of Asbestos, to delight his guests. He threw the cloth into the fire to clean it; surprisingly, it did not burn. Besides, fiber crystals of Asbestos are utilized as jewelry, home decor, and other adornments. Ancient Egyptians preferred to utilize the mineral as a funeral shroud to cover the bodies of the deceased.

The growth of industrialization led to the mineral becoming extremely widespread. Owing to the birth of new technologies such as steam engines, thermal insulation's production demand increased significantly. In the 1950s, the mineral's utilization reached a peak, and use of it was in over 3,000 goods.

The use of Asbestos in British structures has been immense, as it aids in fireproofing and thermal insulation and reinforces asbestos-cement goods. As per the advisory committee's final report, white Asbestos was most common in Britain. In 1976, the importation of white Asbestos was brought into Britain, and about 40% of it was used in asbestos cement construction goods. 22% went into fillers and reinforced cement, and 12% went to floor tiles and other flooring.

Asbestos's characteristics

  • All across the world, Asbestos is found naturally in mineral formations, and it is in abundance.
  • Asbestos is fibrous, and to process asbestos ore, it must break up into a wool-like consistency.
  • Asbestos can withstand heat and electricity. 
  • Tiny asbestos fibers are hard to break down after one inhales them. For a very long time, living asbestos fibers in the body will give birth to several diseases, such as cancer and chronic inflammation.

Where may one find Asbestos in use?

Asbestos is generally known for its disadvantages, mainly causing different diseases. However, Asbestos has several uses that are acceptable for the development of industries.


Below are the uses of Asbestos:

  • Asbestos fibers protect against heat, electricity, and sound. To insulate buildings and commercial items such as engines, individuals use Asbestos. In homes and buildings, the mineral is applied as a sealer around windows. On the other hand, Asbestos was a significant benefit for military purposes. Unfortunately, numerous veterans contracted ailments related to the mineral due to their asbestos exposure.
  • Asbestos has extremely great durability. Due to this, minerals were used in several building goods, for example, floor tiles and cement goods.
  • The utilization of minerals was in making fire blankets and costumes for firefighters, as it aimed to guard them against heat and fire. Asbestos's use in construction materials intends to fireproof private residences and public structures such as colleges and hospitals. Furthermore, the mineral is promoted as a "miracle mineral" that can save lives due to its propensity to catch fire.
  • Asbestos is used in car production to manufacture goods such as transmissions and clutches.
  • Makeup and potholders are two examples of household items that contain Asbestos.
  • The utilization of the mineral is widespread in automotive parts such as brake pads.

What types of Asbestos are there?

Amphiboles have five kinds of Asbestos. These kinds are inhalable, straight, pointed structures that resemble chains. The five kinds of minerals are given below:


This type of Asbestos is commonly dark and sharp, resembling needle-like fibers. One could quickly inhale it when it's in the air.


Actinolite is composed of calcium, magnesium, iron, and silicon. It is found in goods such as paint and drywall.

Amosite (Brown Asbestos)

The mining of it takes place in South Africa, making it one of the most hazardous types of Asbestos. Amosite is distinguished by fibers that resemble sharp, brittle needles and are easily inhaled. It is the second most utilized Asbestos in the United States, as five percent of the asbestos goods used in American building materials are made of amosite. Moreover, the amosite is used in cement, roofing, and tiles. 


In contrast, this type of Asbestos has heat resistance and high tensile strength. The utilization of amosite is expected in the production of insulation boards in the United Kingdom.


Asbestos is made of iron and magnesium, and brown to yellow are the possible color ranges for anthophyllite.


Just like other kinds of Asbestos, it is sharp, resembles needles, and an individual can inhale without effort. Besides, it is not often found in products but is used in cement.

Crocidolite (Blue Asbestos)

Crocidolite is regarded as the most dangerous form of Asbestos in the amphibole category. Additionally, it has a strong resistance to acids and is the strongest of the asbestos fibers. However, this form of Asbestos is an insane threat to human life, as it causes more illnesses and deaths than other kinds of Asbestos.


From the 1880s to the mid-1960s, this asbestos type was used in rope lagging and yarn. Between the mid-1920s and the 1950s, crocidolite was used in thermal insulation. Conversely, crocidolite imports peaked in 1950, declined by 25% in 1960, and witnessed a significant decline of 88% in 1970.

On the other hand, since it was less resistant to heat, the infrequent utilization of it was in commercial goods. Nevertheless, the utilization of it was in cement and tiles.


Tremolite is popular due to its heat resistance and the fact that it can be used to make fabric. Moreover, this type of Asbestos is no longer mined as it causes many harmful and cancer-related diseases.


Besides, it comes in various colors, from milky white to white green, and it can be found in several other minerals, like vermiculite. This asbestos type was used earlier in roofing, paints, and insulation.

Serpentine mineral group

This family has only one kind of Asbestos: chrysotile or white Asbestos.


This particular kind has a layer structure formed of curled fibers.

Chrysotile (White Asbestos)

Chrysotile is more flexible than the other forms of asbestos fibers and is known for being flexible. Moreover, they have the potential to resist intense heat, although they are soft and flexible. Therefore, they are woven and spun like cotton with no effort. Chrysotile is an effective reinforcing material in asbestos-cement construction goods due to its ability to withstand alkaline attack.


In contrast, chrysotile was more widely used than other types of Asbestos before being banned in the United Kingdom in 1999. Chrysotile has the potential to absorb organic substances like resins and strengthen materials such as cement.

The importation of this kind of Asbestos into the United Kingdom was about 5,000 metric tons in 1994; the vending of asbestos roofing slates skyrocketed by 25% in 1993. The mining of it is in Quebec and Russia. Furthermore, its utilization is to make various products such as gaskets, plastics, and textiles.

Prohibition on using Asbestos 

Asbestos damages a person's health by increasing their risk of developing lung and ovarian cancer. After inhalation, Asbestos resides in the body and may lead to asbestosis, an inflammatory condition that damages the lungs over time. Moreover, exposure to Asbestos leads to mesothelioma. Hence, over 55 countries, such as Canada and Chile, prohibit the mineral. Some nations have approved the limited use of asbestos goods because they have taken essential steps to safeguard individuals from danger.

On the other hand, several goods made of Asbestos are prohibited in the United States, such as asbestos wall compounds and paper goods made of minerals. Millboard and clothing are some of the few asbestos-containing goods that are not prohibited in the United States.

How can we slow the spread of Asbestos-related diseases?

Humans' exposure to Asbestos is hazardous and leads to lung cancer and many other diseases. However, specific steps would help reduce the development of asbestos-related diseases, and they are:

  • Quitting smoking immediately, as smoking exacerbates the scarring caused by Asbestos and accelerates the disease's progression.
  • Use a scarf to shield your mouth and nose from the air in cold weather.
  • Remain inside your homes when pollen counts are at their highest and the air is heavily contaminated.
  • Nutrition should be taken into consideration by eating a diet that is well-balanced and restricts salt consumption.

Final Words

Asbestos has both benefits and disadvantages, with the advantages outweighing the disadvantages. However, the disadvantages are life-threatening, which led to the banning of Asbestos in many countries. With significant measures, the development of asbestos-related diseases will be stopped, for example, by stopping smoking. In contrast, this mineral is used in different goods, like clutches. Because Asbestos is widely used in various products, many countries hesitate to outlaw it.

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