About Asbestos

Asbestos Types


Chrysotile asbestos, or “white asbestos,” has long, curly fibres that wrap around themselves. The fibres weave easily together into fabric.

Chrysotile is the most common type of asbestos used in the UK. An estimated 90% of asbestos in buildings contain chrysotile.

Chrysotile asbestos was frequently incorporated into construction materials, automotive parts, and sea-faring vessels often contained insulation made with chrysotile asbestos. The mineral was ideal because it was lightweight and incombustible.

The following products can contain chrysotile asbestos:

Cement, Gaskets, Roofing materials, Brake linings, Brake pads Clutches, Disk pads, Plastics, Rubber, Textiles, Bitumen.


Amosite asbestos, or “brown asbestos,” has sharp, brittle, and needle-like fibres. Amosite is particularly resistant to heat and flame. As a result, amosite is common in construction materials for fireproofing.

Amosite makes up around 5% of asbestos use in buildings throughout the UK. Amosite asbestos was also prevalent throughout shipyards.

In a study of 144 shipyard workers and insulators, amosite was present in the lungs of each worker. Researchers noted tremolite and chrysotile fibres in most individuals. However, amosite asbestos was the most prominent fibre type.

Amosite is the second most commonly used asbestos type in the UK.

The following products can contain amosite asbestos:

Cement sheets, Thermal insulation, Fireproof products, Chemical insulation, Electrical insulation, Pipe insulation, Gaskets, Insulation boards, Roofing, Tiles


Crocidolite, or “blue asbestos,” has very fine, sharp fibres. Due to the small size and brittle nature of crocidolite fibres, they are particularly easy to inhale. Some studies show crocidolite may be responsible for more asbestos-related illnesses and deaths than the other types.

Crocidolite asbestos is not as heat resistant as other asbestos types. As a result, it was rarely incorporated into commercial goods.

In rare instances, crocidolite is found in cement, tiles, and asbestos insulation.


Tremolite asbestos ranges from a milky white to dark green colour. Tremolite has straight, sharp fibres and is predominantly composed of magnesium. This type was not frequently used in product manufacturing. However, tremolite fibres have been known to contaminate vermiculite and talc deposits. This was discovered when samples of children’s cosmetic kits tested positive for tremolite asbestos.

The following products can contain tremolite asbestos:
Paint, Sealants, Insulation, Roofing, Plumbing materials, Talc-based cosmetics


Actinolite asbestos is typically dark brown with sharp needle-like fibres. Actinolite is also made up of other minerals, including calcium, magnesium, iron, and silicon.

Though this type of asbestos is rare, the following products can contain actinolite asbestos:

Cement, Insulation, Paint, Sealants, Drywall


Anthophyllite asbestos is brown or yellow with long, needle-like fibres. Anthophyllite commonly contains magnesium and iron.

Anthophyllite is one of the rarest types of asbestos and not commonly used in commercial goods. The fibres have been found in cement and insulation materials on rare occasions.

Is Asbestos Dangerous?

Despite studies finding varying risks associated with asbestos types, all asbestos is dangerous and there is no ‘safe’ type of asbestos. Exposure to any type of asbestos can lead to cancers and other illnesses.

Asbestos types are not regulated differently based on perceived danger. Historically, evidence was submitted in an attempt to prove chrysotile (white) was less dangerous than other amphibole types. The decision to treat all asbestos types equally was supported by the following reasons:

  • The evidence shows a similar correlation between chrysotile and amphibole potency in relation to lung cancer and asbestosis.
  • Evidence supporting chrysotile as less toxic than other types was primarily associated with mesothelioma cases.
  • This evidence was unpersuasive and did not justify regulating chrysotile less strictly.

Studies continue to research the level of risk associated with each asbestos type.

Friable vs. Non-Friable Asbestos (Also known as Fibrous ACM vs. Bonded ACM)

Asbestos materials are either friable or non-friable. Friability depends on how easily the material can be broken down by hand. Friable products typically pose more of a health risk than non-friable asbestos.

Friable Asbestos

  • Can crumble or break by hand
  • Fibres release easily and pose a greater health risk than non-friable asbestos
  • Example products: Loose-fill insulation, Spray-on insulation, Thermal insulation, and other spray-on coatings

Non-Friable Asbestos

  • Cannot crumble or break easily by hand but could be disturbed by sawing, sanding, or cutting
  • Poses less of a health risk than friable asbestos if undisturbed or securely contained within other materials (bonded)
  • Example products: Vinyl floor tiles, window putty, cement panels/sheeting and textured coating

Non-friable asbestos may pose a negligible risk if properly contained. However, individuals should treat any asbestos product as a potential health risk. Home renovations, natural disasters and other incidents can easily present asbestos exposure risks.


What Was Asbestos Used For?

Asbestos was used in a variety of products mainly for heat resistance and fireproofing. Asbestos use peaked towards the late 1900s. The mineral was used in insulation, cement, flooring, roofing and fireproof products. This practice was popular from the 1930s to the 1970s.

Is Asbestos Still Common in the UK Today?

Amphibole asbestos product usage was banned in the UK in 1985 and use of chrysotile asbestos product usage was finally banned in 1999. Older asbestos-containing products can become exposed from damage, wear-and-tear, or other disturbances. For example, buildings and homes built before 1999 likely contain some asbestos materials that haven’t been replaced or removed.


Asbestos was once used in thousands of products. Regulations prevent many new products from containing the mineral, but some may legally contain low levels of asbestos. Manufacturers are also not required to disclose asbestos in the ingredients list if there is less than 1% asbestos.

Common asbestos products include:

  • Insulation
  • Cement
  • Floor tiles
  • Ceiling tiles
  • Drywall
  • Adhesives
  • Roofing materials


Historically, there are many occupations that have put workers at risk of asbestos exposure. The term “asbestos occupation” refers to any job potentially exposing workers to asbestos fibres. Insulation engineers (laggers), joiners, marine engineers, to mention a few trades were historically exposed to significant amounts of raw/disturbed asbestos material.

Asbestos occupations involve:

Manufacturing products with raw asbestos (Example: Using asbestos to create asbestos cement)

Working with materials containing the mineral (Example: Repairing vehicles with asbestos-containing brakes)

Working in buildings containing the mineral (Example: Teachers working in classrooms with aging asbestos ceiling tiles)

The main concern with asbestos in the workplace is if fibres become airborne. Individuals can then breathe in or swallow the fibres. Many jobs required workers to sand, cut or repair asbestos products. This often-created asbestos dust. Asbestos building materials may also face wear and tear over the years, which can expose fibres in classrooms, public buildings, and other structures.

Asbestos particles are not typically visible to the naked eye and are odourless. As a result, many workers are unaware of their exposure.

Secondary Asbestos Exposure

Individuals are at risk of second-hand exposure if they come into contact with asbestos fibres from someone else who was exposed. For example, women and family members were often exposed when men brought asbestos fibres home on their clothing. Men most frequently held high-risk asbestos occupations.


What Are the Health Risks of Asbestos?

Asbestos fibres are dangerous when they are inhaled or swallowed and become embedded in organ linings and tissues. Asbestos-related diseases include mesothelioma, lung cancer, asbestosis, and other illnesses.

Asbestos Cancers

Asbestos cancers include mesothelioma, lung cancer, laryngeal cancer and ovarian cancer. Studies have found correlations between asbestos and several other cancers, such as breast cancer and colon cancer.

Due to their needle-like structure, fibres can easily embed in organ linings and tissues. This can then cause irritation, mutation, and cancer. Long-term exposure to asbestos fibres increases the risk of asbestos cancer.

Asbestos Diseases

Asbestos diseases include asbestosis, pleural thickening, pleural plaques, and other conditions. These illnesses are typically caused by prolonged exposure to asbestos fibres. However, no amount of exposure is safe, including short-term exposure.

Asbestos diseases can also be an indicator of asbestos cancer.


How to Avoid the Dangers of Asbestos

People can avoid the dangers of asbestos by:

  • Understanding what products are likely to contain asbestos
  • Seeking professional help for asbestos handling and disposal
  • Using asbestos alternatives when possible

Identifying Asbestos Products

Individuals cannot easily identify asbestos products on their own. However, there are professionals trained at identifying and confirming the presence of asbestos.

Most asbestos products were manufactured prior to 1985. Items facing high temperatures or friction are likely to contain the mineral. Homeowners with houses built prior to 1985 should be particularly careful. Homeowner with houses built post-2000 would be unlikely to contain asbestos.

Some products may be deemed “safe” if asbestos is properly contained. Health risks emerge when the fibres become exposed. Asbestos in the home could become a health risk when conducting repairs or renovations. Asbestos materials may also become exposed during a natural disaster or after wear and tear.

Safely Handling and Removing Asbestos

Individuals should never touch, move, or dispose of asbestos-containing material on their own. Asbestos abatement professionals are trained and certified in identifying, handling and properly disposing of the material.

Asbestos materials cannot be disposed of in normal trash bins and waste sites. They require specific packaging and labelling before disposal at designated locations.

Finding Alternatives to Asbestos

There are many asbestos alternatives. These options have comparable properties and less severe health effects. Asbestos alternatives may include:

Amorphous Silica Fabrics

  • Form/Composition: Woven cloth typically sold in large sheets that can be cut to the desired size
  • Qualities: Offers chemical, heat and abrasion resistance
  • Products: Incorporated in products such as fireproof gear and thermal barriers

Cellulose Fibres

  • Form/Composition: Made from plant-based materials, such as shredded newspaper, wood, or leaves
  • Qualities: Chemically treated to improve heat and fire resistance
  • Products: Incorporated in products such as insulation

Polyurethane Foam

  • Form/Composition: Often available in foam blocks, foam sheets, foam pipe insulation or spray-on foam
  • Qualities: Moulds to fill cracks and gaps
  • Products: Acts as insulation or filler for thermal products

Flour Fillers

  • Form/Composition: All-natural combinations of products such as wheat flour, rice flour, or wood flour
  • Qualities: Often mixed with a binding agent
  • Products: Typically poured into cracks and crevices for sealing and insulating

Asbestos substitutes may present other health problems, such as lung disease. Before using an asbestos alternative, individuals should understand the associated benefits and risks.


If individuals have been exposed to asbestos and developed a related illness, they may be able to file a claim. Asbestos claims can help with treatment costs and loss of income. Asbestos victims should discuss their exposure, diagnosis, and financial needs with an experienced lawyer to understand their options.

Interested in our service?

Please feel free to contact us with any enquires