With all of the talk and asbestos information available, there is surprisingly little about what asbestos is exactly. Most people know it is a substance that causes cancers and other breathing difficulties, but very few people know about the mineral itself or how to identify it. There is so much focus on what it does that many do not know where it comes from or where it is used.
The Mineral Asbestos
Asbestos is not just one mineral but a group of minerals with specific properties. Their fibrous form is called asbestos, while their more solid forms have another name entirely. This is called an asbestiform. When minerals are found in this form, they have physical properties associated with asbestiform. Some of the minerals that have an asbestiform are grunerite, tremolite, and riebeckite.
These properties include weavability, flexibility, and separability. They also have specific chemical properties that make it distinctly different from other mineral forms.
How Asbestos Is Mined
Miners often faced the most severe consequences of asbestos exposure. Chrysotile, the most common type of asbestos in the United States, is usually quarry mined. This form of open-air mining is environmentally dangerous. When you add the fact that you are mining a toxic chemical, it becomes even more dangerous.
How Asbestos Is Processed
Those that processed asbestos from rock form were also at considerable risk. Asbestos fibers grow on rock. It often looks like hair growing on the side of the rock. They take the rock and crush it. The asbestos fibers are then separated by a blowing process, increasing the risk of those who breathe it in.
The longest fibers are spun into something similar to yarn. The yarn is blended with around 10 to 25% cotton to make it less slippery and easier to spin. The shortest fibers are used for fiberboard, paper, and building materials. The mineral itself is fragile and breaks apart easily, but it becomes very strong when bonded to other minerals or fibers.
Where Asbestos Is Used
Asbestos was used in different cloth products. They made everything from curtains to mattresses and couches out of it because of its fire resistance. Up until the problems with asbestos was recognized, it was marketed as making your home safer.
Other uses include automotive and building insulation, roofing materials, siding, and other building materials. It is also used for firefighters’ gear to keep them safe from fire.
Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral. It is extremely toxic and if you should find some, stay away from the fibrous portions of it.