We often discuss how common it can be to find asbestos in the vehicles, buildings and materials we come into contact with every day. Asbestos fibers are used for a number of reasons, including fireproofing and insulation, and just as there are many different uses for asbestos, there are many different types of asbestos minerals that can be used.
Generally speaking, there are two types of asbestos: amphibole and chrysotile. These minerals can look different and behave differently, but they can both pose a serious threat to a person’s health if they are breathed in.
According to the Agency to Toxic Substances & Disease Registry, amphibole minerals are fragile and crystalline. Chrysotile minerals are more flexible, finer and have a serpentine shape.
Amphibole asbestos includes five different types of minerals and can be found in certain workplaces and products. For example, amphibole asbestos is commonly found in materials like insulation and floor tiles. It can also be found in and around tremolite asbestos mines as well as cosmetics and gardening products.
Chrysotile asbestos can be found in some of these same products, but overall is much more common than amphibole asbestos. Due to the fiber’s flexibility and resistance to heat, chrysotile asbestos is commonly found in commercial building materials.
While both types of asbestos can do serious damage to a person’s vital organs when exposure levels are high enough, researchers believe that amphibole minerals can be much more damaging than chrysotile, especially at lower levels of exposure. The fact that amphibole asbestos minerals are straight and are longer than chrysotile asbestos means that they often stay in a person’s body longer where they can cause significant damage that leads to conditions like mesothelioma.
Knowing there are different types of asbestos that were and are used in different products, as well as how they differ, should help people appreciate the fact that all asbestos cases and illnesses are different and are the result of unique circumstances and exposure levels that should be investigated individually.