What is Asbestos and why is it dangerous?
Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that has been used in a range of building materials to make them more rigid and fire resistant. It has also been used in household products such as ironing boards and oven gloves. The three main types of commercially used Asbestos are Chrysotile – often referred to as “White asbestos”, Amosite – often referred to as “Brown asbestos” and Crocidolite – often referred to as “Blue asbestos”. Asbestos was a wonder material with no equal; it was cheap, light, plentiful, water resistant, would improve the properties of other materials and could be made into many shapes and products. The only problem was when we started to find out how toxic even small quantities and individual fibres of asbestos could be. All can be dangerous, but Blue and Brown Asbestos are known to be more dangerous than White. The different types cannot usually be identified by their colour alone. Where Asbestos is affected by heat or chemicals or combined with other substances, the colour and appearance can change. Most people are exposed to low amounts of asbestos present in the atmosphere with no ill effects. Asbestos fibres and dust are potentially very dangerous if inhaled in higher concentrations over a period of time when they can cause serious lung diseases including cancer. The symptoms of these diseases often do not appear for between 20 -30 years after exposure to asbestos.