Asbestos Exposure Info | Types of Asbestos

Asbestos exposure can cause health problems.Figure C: Tremolite Asbestos, Photo: New York State department of Environmental Conservation


There are currently six types of asbestos mineral fibers:

  • Actinolite
  • Amosite
  • Anthophyllite
  • Chrysotile
  • Crocidolite
  • Tremolite

Two Basic Forms of Asbestos Fibers

There are two basic forms of asbestos fibers:

  • Amphiboles Asbestos: This type of asbestos fiber is straight and needle needle-like. Actinolite, Amosite, Anthophyllite, Crocidolite, and Tremolite are considered Amphiboles fibers.
  • Serpentine Asbestos: This type of asbestos fiber is curled and more pliable. Chrystolite is considered a Serpentine fiber.

Early studies seemed to indicate that only amphiboles caused cancer and there was a vigorous debate concerning conflicting studies as to whether Chrysotile asbestos was carcinogenic.

Recent research has proven that Chrysotile fibers do cause the asbestos disease called mesothelioma but Tremolite and Crocidolite are even more potent.

Other Mined Minerals Linked to Mesothelioma

It should be noted that the term "Asbestos" is more economical/political than it is scientific. When asbestos lawsuits were first tried in courts, a universal term was needed to describe the hazardous materials. Asbestos manufacturers and lawyers negotiated with the EPA and the Government to create an approved list of mineral specimens.

As a result, the term asbestos doesn’t include all the possible fibrous mineral forms of impure magnesium silicate that behave like asbestos. While they may not be considered “Asbestos,” there are many other fibrous minerals which could be classified as just as carcinogenic, if not more so. Just a few of the more well know examples include:

  • Taconite: There are Taconite mines in the United States, and while Taconite isn't on the asbestos list, its carcinogenic track record certainly qualifies it as a health hazard.
  • Eronite: Erionite is another fiber that is missing from the list and was recently identified as a particularly toxic asbestiform fiber. Erionite was found in the home building materials used in Turkish villages of Karain and Tuzkoy. It has been implicated in the deaths of hundreds of villagers over the years. (f) It is no longer disputed that Erionite causes mesothelioma and belongs on the registry of asbestos-like minerals. Deposits of Erionite have been found in San Bernardino County, California and it may well be found elsewhere in the world. k "100 Questions & Answers About Mesothelioma."
  • Vermiculite: Used in insulation and also as a landscaping and gardening material, vermiculite has recently been identified as a possible carcinogen, with links to mesothelioma.

The list of cancer-causing mineral fibers that should be classified as asbestos is still growing. Banning just those fibers known today as asbestos would resolve only a fraction of the problem. The continuing issue of exposure to asbestos materials and their health hazards is unlikely to go away in the foreseeable future.

Figure D: Crocidolite Asbestos, Photo: New York State department of Environmental Conservation

Learn more about asbestos, the dangers of asbestos exposure, and who is at risk. Contact the Meso Foundation for expert help and a free copy of the book "100 Questions & Answers About Mesothelioma."

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