Occurs in Nature
Asbestos is the commercial name given to a group of fibrous hydrated silicates that occur naturally in rock formations throughout the world.
While asbestos is present in large concentrations sometimes sufficient to justify a mining operation, the various asbestos fibres can also occur in non commercial concentrations in the natural bedrock of the earth’s crust. Indeed, there is hardly an area of the world that does not have some asbestos fibres in the bedrock, the air and water supplies. As a result, asbestos occurs as a minor constituent in most mining activities, whether it has to do with copper, talc, chromium, lead, nickel or iron ore. Such minor constituents of this material may find its way into water supplies, beverages and food. It is well established that such occurrences are harmless.
Types of Asbestos
major mineralogical classification divides asbestos into two groups; the Amphibole group which includes actinolite, amosite, crocidolite, tremolite, anthophyllite and the Serpentine group which includes the most abundant and safe variety of asbestos by far, known as Chrysotile. Chrysotile (white) asbestos constitutes 100% of the world production and commercial use of asbestos. Amphibole varieties are no longer produced in the world.
Why is asbestos used?
Asbestos is one of the most useful and versatile industrial raw materials nature has gifted to mankind. It is a fibrous mineral used in many different products. Different asbestos-based products possess different merits, but in every case asbestos is employed because of its unique combination of properties in one single material. Research has yet to develop a single substitute material technically equivalent to Chrysotile in many of its applications. Over the years, some alternate materials in combination have been developed as substitutes for specific applications but studies are yet to be conducted to state that these substitute materials are health-wise safe and commercially and economically viable.