What is Asbestos? Why is Asbestos Produced?

What is Asbestos? In Greek, asbestos is the word for indestructible. Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral which can be separated into flexible fibres. It is found in the veins of a host rock, and then made commercially useful by crushing and then sucking out the fibres. Longer fibres are separated first

and sell for approximately $2,000 per ton. Shorter fibres are separated last and sell for approximately $200 per ton.

Of note is that there is some level of asbestos everywhere, outside and inside. We breathe asbestos into our lungs every day, but it is at levels that our body can withstand.

asbestos mineral example

This is asbestos as a mineral

There are 2 main families of asbestos Amphiboles and Serpentine. The Amphibole family includes; Amosite, Crocidolite, (the most hazardous, but also rare at <2%), Tremolite, Actinolite, Anthophyllite. Some of these asbestos types were an impurity in some vermiculite deposits. The Amphibole family is shaped like a rod, making it easier for it to pass through the natural protection we have in our bodies and can imbed itself in our lungs or stomach creating the fatal disease of mesothelioma.

The Serpentine family only includes Chrysotile, also known as white asbestos, and is mined in Canada, Russia, Australia and Greece. The Serpentine family is considered ‘safer’ because of its shape. The Serpentine’s ‘S’ shape makes it more difficult for fibres to pass by nasal hair and bronchi deep into the lungs.

Canada produces approximately 10% of world’s output and is the third largest exporter of asbestos.

Asbestos is used for many things. Since it has a resistance to fire, asbestos is used in construction in many forms. Asbestos is used in artex (a surface coating) and in popcorn ceilings. Popcorn ceilings are sometimes made using an asbestos product, however not all popcorn ceilings have asbestos. If you want to be sure you are safe, you should take a small sample from the popcorn ceiling and send it to a testing laboratory to determine the asbestos content.

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