Asbestos is a group of minerals of soft, flexible and heat proof fibers. It is used in hundreds of UK and US homes. Exposure to this material can lead to cancer and other horrible diseases such as asbestosis and mesothelioma. We are going to give you a breakdown of what asbestos is and everything you need to know about the material.

So let’s start from the very beginning…

What Is Asbestos?

Asbestos is a natural material which is composed of soft and flexible fibers that are resistant to heat, corrosion and electricity. These qualities make the materials highly toxic. It is a great insulator and can be used in materials such as cloth , paper, cement, plastic and others with the purpose of making them stronger. When the dust from asbestos is inhaled it can become permanently trapped in the body, this is where things go downhill.

Over years, asbestos can cause inflammation, scarring and damage in general. A rare and aggressive cancer called mesothelioma and is exclusively caused by asbestos exposure. It can cause other forms of cancer and lung disease too.

What Types of Asbestos Are There?

The Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act of 1986 legally recognised six types of asbestos that fall into two categories.


  • Crocidolite

  • Amosite

  • Anthophyllite

  • Termolite

  • Actinolite

Serpentine Asbestos

Serpentine asbestos fibers are curly. There is only one kind: Chrysotile, which is known as white asbestos.

Where Does Asbestos Come From?

Asbestos comes from all over the world, however, the main exports are Russia, Kazakhstan and China. Asbestos is usually found as veins within serpentine rock. Most commercial asbestos contains 5%/6% asbestos, some deposits such as the Coalinga deposit in California contain 50% or more asbestos.

Diseases That Are Asbestos Related

Excess exposure to asbestos is linked to several diseases including cancers. As mentioned above mesothelioma is a type of cancer almost exclusively caused by asbestos exposure. The material causes asbestos related lung cancer and other cancers too.

A list of some of these illnesses include:

  • Asbestosis

  • Pleuritis

  • Pleural Effusions

  • Diffuse Pleural Thickening

  • Pleural Plaques

  • COPD

And unfortunately a lot more.

Asbestos Risks

No amount of asbestos is safe but the effects are usually worse when a person is exposed to an intense concentration over a regular basis or a long period of time. Asbestos accumulates in the body with every exposure and there is no known way to get rid of it.

Fibers can become easily inhaled when they become airborne. It is important to avoid disturbing products that may contain asbestos. People who live near naturally occurring asbestos deposits should avoid disturbing soil that may be contaminated.

You could even be exposed to it at work if you work in any of these industries:

  • Construction

  • Electricity Generation

  • Firefighting

  • Military Service

  • Mining

  • Ship Building

  • Heavy Industry

How To Identify Asbestos Products

Microscopic asbestos fibers cannot be seen, smelt or tasted. Unless it is clearly marked asbesto, the only way to detect asbestos is to send a sample in for testing or to hire a professional.

Tips For Safely Handling Asbestos

  • Seal off the work area with plastic sheets and turn off air conditioning

  • Wear a respirator with a high efficiency particulate air filter

  • Wear disposable coveralls and gloves

  • Clean all work surfaces

  • Dispose of any waste in clearly labeled bags.

Sarah Wirth is a marketing executive at A4 Asbestos. A4 Abestos offer Asbestos Removal in Bristol and the surrounding areas.