There are six types of asbestos, but three which were commonly used in the UK:
Chrysotile asbestos belongs to the category Serpentine, whilst all of the others are referred to as Amphibole.
Types of asbestos
Chrysotile (white) asbestos
Chrysotile asbestos has loose, long, and curly fibres, and has a white appearance, maybe with specs of other colours. It is hydrophilic – meaning that it absorbs water.
Banned in 1999 in the UK, it is believed to account for 95% of asbestos globally. It was predominantly mined in Canada, but other mines exist around the world.
Chrysotile fibres have an extremely high tensile strength, and it was often spun into thread, and woven into cloth. Chrysotile asbestos is also resistant to heat and has excellent thermal, electrical and acoustic properties.
Amosite (brown) asbestos
Amosite asbestos has light brown, needle-like fibres, found in bundles, and does not absorb water.
It was predominantly mined in South Africa, and was the second most used asbestos fibre after Chrysotile asbestos.
The use of Amosite asbestos in the United Kingdom was banned in 1985.
Amosite asbestos has amazing thermal properties, and was often used to insulate pipe work, and for fire protection.
Crocidolite (blue) asbestos
Crocidolite asbestos is also found in bundles, and its needle-like fibres have barbs and hooks. It has a noticeable light blue tinge. It does not absorb water.
Like Amosite, Crocidolite asbestos is also in the most hazardous category, but due to its poor heat properties, was used the least. Crocidolite asbestos was also banned in the UK in 1985.
Crocidolite was mined primarily in southern Africa, but also in Australia, and Bolivia. Products that it was used in mainly consisted of cement products, and gaskets.
Is all asbestos dangerous?
Yes. All asbestos is dangerous!
Depending on the material, and its friability, and condition, it can be categorised as high-risk or low-risk. Some materials pose a serious risk, especially if damaged, so it is important to avoid complacency.