What is Asbestos?

Meaning of Asbestos

Asbestos or asbestos is a natural mineral, more specifically formed by magnesium silicate .
Asbestos where does it come from ?
Asbestos is produced in open pit mines and, due to its characteristics, it can be transformed into a type of fiber used in various applications related to construction. In its popular version it is known as asbestos .


What is asbestos for?

Asbestos is used to produce items such as brakes and pipes and is also used in the construction of floors and roofs (in the last two cases it integrates a mixture that also contains asbestos and cement ).

Asbestos has become a widely used raw material due to its many properties, including:

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  • High temperature resistance
  • Incombustibility
  • malleability to be woven
  • list item
  • Flexibility
  • good sound insulation
  • good thermal insulation


In addition, another reason for the great interest of the industry in asbestos is that it is a very low-cost material , since it is found in abundance in nature.

Uses and applications

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  • Ancient Uses
    Used in locks on ancient lanterns, asbestos’s fire resistance has long been harnessed for a variety of purposes.
    It was used in funerary cloths in ancient Egypt, as well as to make a tablecloth for Charlemagne, who, according to legend, Charlemagne threw into the fire to cleanse it.
  • Modern uses
    Asbestos has been used in more than 3,000 products, with specific applications for different types.


Serpentine-Kaolinite Group

Chrysotile is the mineral most used in the production of asbestos Its applications are numerous, including:

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  • Fiber cement tiles (about 85% of world consumption)
  • automobile brake clutches
  • Cladding and ceilings
  • plaster and stucco
  • fire retardant coatings
  • fireproof protective clothing


Amphibole Group

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  • Construction of pipes and roofs (mixed with cement, fiber cement)
  • Thermal and acoustic insulation
  • roof coverings



Asbestos is resistant to heat up to 1000 ° C (Celsius) and against moderate acids, it has an even higher tensile strength than steel wires with the same profile.
At temperatures above 1200°C (Celsius), asbestos converts to Olivine and its varieties.

Asbestos Effects

When asbestos fiber breaks off of any material, it becomes potentially dangerous as it floats in the air and can enter our bodies.
Once inhaled, it lodges in the lungs and over time causes lung diseases such as COPD.
Asbestos has deleterious effects on respiratory physiology.
It also causes mesothelioma , a cancer that affects cells in the body and causes more than 100,000 deaths worldwide each year.

The effects of asbestos are especially bad for the body , and people who die from inhalation are in severe pain.

Where is it located

Where is asbestos found ?
Homesbuilt before 1975 are highly likely to contain asbestos , so many people are in danger and don’t even know it.
We can find this material in all the elements of a building , such as thermal insulation, boilers, pipes, synthetic tiles, window putty, roofing materials, cement fibers, among others.

Although public authorities in most countries prohibit the use of asbestos in the construction sector , old buildings still retain it.
On the other hand, they continue to be used in illegal construction and in underdeveloped countries.

Some manufacturers claim that asbestos is not a dangerous material, but there are associations that continue to fight to prevent this material from being developed.

Forms of Exposure to Asbestos

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  • At work
    It is the main form of exposure to asbestos and asbestos; The main activities where there is a higher risk of exposure to asbestos are: asbestos extraction, milling and bagging, manufacture of asbestos cement products, manufacture of friction and sealing materials, installation and maintenance of industrial heat seals, manufacture of textiles with asbestos. It occurs mainly by inhalation of asbestos fibers.
  • Environmental
    Contact with clothing and objects of workers contaminated with fiber; Reside near factories, mining or contaminated areas; Attend environments where there are degraded asbestos products; Presence of free asbestos in nature or in the disposal of the product or disposal points.


Who are most exposed to Asbestos?

Asbestos is so ubiquitous that we are all exposed to it in small amounts . However, to develop the disease one must have long-term exposure to the substance.

Typically, such exposure requires working with the product for a long period of time. Workers who work with asbestos
are at risk , in most cases, for many years.

Examples of workers at risk are listed in the box .

[su_row][su_column size=”1/2″ center=”no” class=””]*Miners
workers *Power plant workers
*Pipe filters[/su_column] [su_column size=”1/2″ center=”no” class=””]*Boiler manufacturers and repairers.
workers *Workers in the production of refractory bricks.[/su_column][/su_row]

It should be noted that while exposure occurs almost exclusively in the workplace , it can also occur outside of the workplace, such as in neighborhoods near mines.

There are also several cases where workers’ wives develop  illnesses because they cleaned their husbands’ asbestos-covered work clothes.

Asbestos: Health Effects

Exposure to asbestos is related to the appearance of several diseases . It is classified as carcinogenic to humans. Safe levels of asbestos exposure have not been identified .

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  • Asbestosis: The disease is caused by the deposition of asbestos fibers in the pulmonary alveoli, which reduces the ability to carry out gas exchange and promotes the loss of lung elasticity and respiratory capacity.
  • Lung Cancer: Lung cancer can be associated with other types of diseases, such as asbestosis. It is estimated that 50% of people who have asbestosis will develop lung cancer.
  • Mesothelioma: It is a rare form of malignant tumor that can produce lymphatic metastases in approximately 25% of cases.
  • Asbestos Warts: Produced when sharp fibers lodge in the skin and become covered by the skin, causing benign callus-like growths.
  • Pleural Plaques: Thickening of part of the pleura visible on radiographs in individuals exposed to asbestos.
  • Diffuse pleural thickening: Generally asymptomatic, it can cause loss of respiratory capacity if its extension is large.
  • malignant tumor in the peritoneum


Finally, if you have wondered which is the most dangerous asbestos, you should know that all forms and types of asbestos are carcinogenic.

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