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Asbestos is composed of minerals, known since antiquity, with long, thin fibrous crystals. The word "asbestos" is derived from a Greek adjective meaning inextinguishable. The Greeks termed asbestos the "miracle mineral" because of its soft and pliant properties, as well as its ability to withstand heat.

Asbestos became increasingly popular among manufacturers and builders in the late 19th century due to its resistance to heat, electricity and chemical damage, sound absorption and tensile strength. When asbestos is used for its resistance to fire or heat, the fibers are often mixed with cement or woven into fabric or mats. Asbestos is used in brake shoes and gaskets for its heat resistance, and in the past was used on electric oven and hotplate wiring for its electrical insulation at elevated temperature, and in buildings for its flame-retardant and insulating properties, tensile strength, flexibility, and resistance to chemicals.

The inhalation of asbestos fibers can cause serious illnesses, including mesothelioma and asbestosis. Since the mid 1980s, many uses of asbestos are banned in many countries.


Types of asbestos and associated fibres


Six minerals are defined as "asbestos" including: chrysotile, amosite, crocidolite, tremolite, anthophyllite and actinolite.

White asbestos

Chrysotile, CAS No. 12001-29-5, is obtained from serpentine rocks which is common throughout the world. The rocks are called serpentine because their fibers curl; chrysotile fibers are curly as opposed to fibers from amosite, crocidolite, tremolite, actinolite, and anthophyllite which are needlelike.[1] Chrysotile, along with other types of asbestos, has been banned in dozens of countries and is only allowed in the United States and Europe in very limited circumstances. Chrysotile is used more than any other type and accounts for about 95% of the asbestos found in buildings in America.[2] Applications where chrysotile might be used include the use of joint compound. It is more flexible than amphibole types of asbestos; it can be spun and woven into fabric.

Brown asbestos

Amosite, CAS No. 12172-73-5, is a trade name for the amphiboles belonging to the Cummingtonite - Grunerite solid solution series, commonly from Africa, named as an acronym from Asbestos Mines of South Africa. One formula given for amosite is Fe7Si8O22(OH)2. It is found most frequently as a fire retardant in thermal insulation products and ceiling tiles.[2]

Blue asbestos

Crocidolite, CAS No. 12001-28-4 is an amphibole from Africa and Australia. It is the fibrous form of the amphibole riebeckite. One formula given for crocidolite is Na2Fe2+3Fe3+2Si8O22(OH)2. Notes: chrysotile commonly occurs as soft friable fibers. Asbestiform amphibole may also occur as soft friable fibers but some varieties such as amosite are commonly straighter. All forms of asbestos are fibrillar in that they are composed of fibers with widths less than 1 micrometre that occur in bundles and have very long lengths. Asbestos with particularly fine fibers is also referred to as "amianthus". Amphiboles such as tremolite have a crystal structure containing strongly bonded ribbonlike silicate anion polymers that extend the length of the crystal. Serpentine (chrysotile) has a sheetlike silicate anion which is curved and which rolls up like a carpet to form the fiber.[3]

Other asbestos

Other regulated asbestos minerals, such as tremolite asbestos, CAS No. 77536-68-6, Ca2Mg5Si8O22(OH)2; actinolite asbestos (or smaragdite), CAS No. 77536-66-4, Ca2(Mg, Fe)5(Si8O22)(OH)2; and anthophyllite asbestos, CAS No. 77536-67-5, (Mg, Fe)7Si8O22(OH)2; are less commonly used industrially but can still be found in a variety of construction materials and insulation materials and have been reported in the past to occur in a few consumer products.

Other natural and not currently regulated asbestiform minerals, such as richterite, Na(CaNa)(Mg,Fe++)5(Si8O22)(OH)2, and winchite, (CaNa)Mg4(Al,Fe3+)(Si8O22)(OH)2, may be found as a contaminant in products such as the vermiculite containing zonolite insulation manufactured by W.R. Grace and Company. These minerals are thought to be no less harmful than tremolite, amosite, or crocidolite, but since they are not regulated, they are referred to as "asbestiform" rather than asbestos although may still be related to diseases and hazardous.

Production trends

  In 2005, 2.2 million tons of asbestos were mined worldwide. Russia was the largest producer with about 40% world share followed by China and Kazakhstan.[4]


Historic usage

Asbestos was named by the ancient Greeks who also recognized certain hazards of the material. The Greek geographer Strabo and the Roman naturalist Pliny the Elder noted that the material damaged lungs of slaves who wove it into cloth.[5][6] Charlemagne, the first Holy Roman Emperor, is said to have had a tablecloth made of asbestos.[7][8][9]

Wealthy Persians, who bought asbestos imported over the Hindu Kush, amazed guests by cleaning the cloth by simply exposing it to fire. According to Biruni in his book of Gems, any cloths made of asbestos (Persian: آذرشست, āzarshast or Persian: آذرشب, āzarshab) were called (Persian: شستكه) shastakeh[10]. Some of the Persians believed the fiber was fur from an animal (named samandar, Persian: سمندر) that lived in fire and died when exposed to water.[11][12]

Some archeologists believe that ancients made shrouds of asbestos, wherein they burned the bodies of their kings, in order to preserve only their ashes, and prevent their being mixed with those of wood or other combustible materials commonly used in funeral pyres.[13] Others assert that the ancients used asbestos to make perpetual wicks for sepulchral or other lamps.[9][11] In more recent centuries, asbestos was indeed used for this purpose. Although asbestos causes skin to itch upon contact, ancient literature indicates that it was prescribed for diseases of the skin, and particularly for the itch. It is possible that they used the term asbestos for alumen plumosum, because the two terms have often been confused throughout history.[13]

Asbestos became more widespread during the industrial revolution, in the 1860s it was used as insulation in the U.S. and Canada. Development of the first commercial asbestos mine began in 1879 in the Appalachian foothills of Quebec.[14] By the mid 20th century uses included fire retardant coatings, concrete, bricks, pipes and fireplace cement, heat, fire, and acid resistant gaskets, pipe insulation, ceiling insulation, fireproof drywall, flooring, roofing, lawn furniture, and drywall joint compound.[9]

Approximately 100,000 people have died, or will die, from asbestos exposure related to ship building. In the Hampton Roads area, a shipbuilding center, mesothelioma occurrence is seven times the national rate.[15] Thousands of metric tons of asbestos were used in World War II ships to wrap the pipes, line the boilers, and cover engine and turbine parts. There were approximately 4.3 million shipyard workers during WWII, for every thousand workers about 14 died of mesothelioma and an unknown number died from asbestosis.[14]

Asbestos fibers were once used in automobile brake pads and shoes. Since the mid-1990s, a majority of brake pads, new or replacement, have been manufactured instead with Aramid fiber (Twaron or Kevlar) linings (the same material used in bulletproof vests).

Kent, the first filtered cigarette on the market, used crocidolite asbestos in its "Micronite" filter from 1952 to 1956.[16]

The first documented death related to asbestos was in 1906.[8] In the early 1900s researchers began to notice a large number of early deaths and lung problems in asbestos mining towns. The first diagnosis of asbestosis was made in England in 1924.[6] By the 1930s, England regulated ventilation and made asbestos an excusable work related disease, about ten years sooner than the U.S.[6][17] The term Mesothelioma was not used in medical literature until 1931, and was not associated with asbestos until sometime in the 1940s.[8]

The United States government and asbestos industry have been criticized for not acting quickly enough to inform the public of dangers, and to reduce public exposure. In the late 1970s court documents proved that asbestos industry officials knew of asbestos dangers and tried to conceal them.[14]

In Japan, particularly after World War II, asbestos was used in the manufacture of ammonium sulfate for purposes of rice production, sprayed upon the ceilings, iron skeletons, and walls of railroad cars and buildings (during the 1960s), and used for energy efficiency reasons as well. Production of asbestos in Japan peaked in 1974 and went through ups and downs until about 1990, when production began to drop severely.[18]

Specific products

Serpentine group

Serpentine minerals have a sheet or layered structure. Chrysolite is the only asbestos mineral in the serpentine group. In the United States, chrysotile has been the most commonly used type of asbestos. According to the U.S. EPA Asbestos Building Inspectors Manual, chrysotile accounts for approximately 95% of asbestos found in buildings in the United States. Chrysotile is often present in a wide variety of materials, including :

  • joint compound
  • mud and texture coats
  • vinyl floor tiles, sheeting, adhesives
  • roofing tars, felts, siding, and shingles
  • "transite" panels, siding, countertops, and pipes
  • fireproofing
  • caulk
  • gaskets
  • brake pads and shoes
  • clutch plates
  • stage curtains
  • fire blankets
  • interior fire doors
  • fireproof clothing for firefighters
  • thermal pipe insulation

In the European Union and Australia it has recently been banned as a potential health hazard[19] and is not used at all. Japan is moving in the same direction, but more slowly. Revelations that hundreds of workers had died in Japan over the previous few decades from diseases related to asbestos sparked a scandal in mid-2005.[20] Tokyo had, in 1971, ordered companies handling asbestos to install ventilators and check health on a regular basis; however, the Japanese government did not ban crocidolite and amosite until 1995, and a full-fledged ban on asbestos was implemented in October 2004.[20]

Amphibole group

Five types of asbestos are found in the amphibole group: amosite, crocidolite, anthophyllite, tremolite, and actinolite. Amosite, the second most likely type to be found in buildings, according to the U.S. EPA Asestos Building Inspectors Guide, is the "brown" asbestos.

Amosite and crocidolite were formerly used in many products until the early 1980s. The use of all types of asbestos in the amphibole group was banned (in much of the Western world) by the mid-1980s, and by Japan in 1995. These products were mainly:

  • Low density insulation board and ceiling tiles
  • Asbestos-cement sheets and pipes for construction, casing for water and electrical/telecommunication services
  • Thermal and chemical insulation (i.e., fire rated doors, limpet spray, lagging and gaskets)

Health issues

Chrysotile asbestos, like all other forms of industrial asbestos, has produced tumors in animals. Mesotheliomas have been observed in people who were occupationally exposed to chrysotile, family members of the occupationally exposed, and residents who lived close to asbestos factories and mines.[21] Brown asbestos, like all asbestos, is hazardous. Blue asbestos is commonly thought of as the most dangerous type of asbestos. Tremolite often contaminates chrysotile asbestos, thus creating an additional hazard.

Other asbestos-related diseases

  • Asbestos warts – caused when the sharp fibers lodge in the skin and are overgrown causing benign callus-like growths.
  • Pleural plaques – discrete fibrous or partially calcified thickened area which can be seen on X-rays of individuals exposed to asbestos. They do not become malignant or cause other lung impairment.
  • Diffuse pleural thickening – similar to above and can sometimes be associated with asbestosis. Usually no symptoms shown but if extensive can cause lung impairment.

Asbestos as a contaminant


Most respirable asbestos fibers are invisible to the unaided human eye because their size is about 3.0-20.0 µm in length and can be as thin as 0.01 µm. Human hair ranges in size from 17 to 181 µm in width.[22] Fibers ultimately form because when these minerals originally cooled and crystallized, they formed by the polymeric molecules lining up parallel with each other and forming oriented crystal lattices. These crystals thus have three cleavage planes, just as other minerals and gemstones have. But in their case, there are two cleavage planes that are much weaker than the third direction. When sufficient force is applied, they tend to break along their weakest directions, resulting in a linear fragmentation pattern and hence a fibrous form. This fracture process can keep occurring and one larger asbestos fiber can ultimately become the source of hundreds of much thinner and smaller fibers.

As asbestos fibers get smaller and lighter, the more easily they become airborne and human respiratory exposures can result. Fibers will eventually settle but may be re-suspended by air currents or other movement.

Friability of a product containing asbestos means that it is so soft and weak in structure that it can be broken with simple finger crushing pressure. Friable materials are of the most initial concern due to their ease of damage. The forces or conditions of usage that come into intimate contact with most non-friable materials containing asbestos are substantially higher than finger pressure.

Environmental asbestos

Asbestos is in the air we breathe and some of the water we drink, including water from natural sources.[23] Studies have shown that members of general (non-occupationally exposed) population have tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of asbestos fibers in each gram of dry lung tissue, which translates into millions of fibers and tens of thousands of asbestos bodies in every person's lungs.[24]

Asbestos from natural geologic deposits is known as "Naturally Occurring Asbestos" (NOA). Health risks associated with exposure to NOA are not yet fully understood, and current US federal regulations do not address exposure from NOA. Many populated areas are in proximity to shallow, natural deposits which occur in 50 of 58 California counties and in 19 other U.S. states. In one study, data was collected from 3,000 mesothelioma patients in California and 890 men with prostate cancer, a malignancy not known to be related to asbestos. The study found a correlation between the incidence of mesotheliomas and the distance a patient lived from known deposits of rock likely to include asbestos, the correlation was not present when the incidence of prostate cancer was compared with the same distances. According to the study, risk of mesothelioma declined by 6 percent for every 10 kilometers that an individual had lived from a likely asbestos source.[25]

Portions of El Dorado county are known to contain natural asbestos formations near the surface.[26][25] The USGS studied amphiboles in rock and soil in the area in response to an EPA sampling study and subsequent criticism of the EPA study. The study found that many amphibole particles in the area meet the counting rule criteria used by the EPA for chemical and morphological limits, but do not meet morphological requirements for commercial-grade-asbestos. The executive summary pointed out that even particles that do not meet requirements for commercial-grade-asbestos may be a health threat and suggested a collaborative research effort to assess health risks associated with "Naturally Occurring Asbestos".[27]

Large portions of Fairfax County, Virginia were also found to be underlain with tremolite. The county monitored air quality at construction sites, controlled soil taken from affected areas, and required freshly developed sites to lay 6 inches of clean, stable material over the ground.[25]

History of health concerns and regulation

Prior to 1900

By the first century AD, Greeks and Romans had already observed, at least in passing, that slaves involved in the weaving of asbestos cloth were afflicted with a sickness of the lungs. [28].

Early concern in the modern era on the health effects of asbestos exposure can be found in several sources. Among the earliest were reports in Britain. The annual reports of the Chief Inspector of Factories reported as early as 1898 that asbestos had 'easily demonstrated' health risks[29]

At about the same time, what was probably the first study of mortality among asbestos workers was reported in France [30]. While the study describes the cause of death as chalicosis, a generalized pneumoconiosis, the circumstances of the employment of the fifty workers whose death prompted the study suggest that the root cause was asbestos or mixed asbestos-cotton dust exposure.

1900s - 1910s

Further awareness of asbestos-related diseases can be found in the early 1900s, when London doctor H. Montague Murray conducted a post mortem exam on a young asbestos factory worker who died in 1899. Dr. Murray gave testimony on this death in connection with an industrial disease compensation hearing. The post-mortem confirmed the presence of asbestos in the lung tissue, prompting Dr. Murray to express as an expert opinion his belief that the inhalation of asbestos dust had at least contributed to, if not actually caused, the death of the worker[31].

The record in the United States was similar. Early observations were largely anecdotal in nature and did not definitively link the occupation with the disease, followed by more compelling and larger studies that strengthened the association. One such study, published in 1918, noted:

All of these processes unquestionably involve a considerable dust hazard, but the hygienic aspects of the industry have not been reported upon. It may be said, in conclusion, that in the practice of American and Canadian life insurance companies asbestos workers are generally declined on account of the assumed health-injurious conditions of the industry [32].

1920s and 1930s

Widespread recognition of the occupational risks of asbestos in Britain was reported in 1924 by a Dr. Cooke, a pathologist, who introduced a case description of a 33-year old female asbestos worker with the following: 'Medical men in areas where asbestos is manufactured have long suspected the dust to be the cause of chronic bronchitis and fibrosis...[33]." Dr. Cooke then went on to report on a case in 1927 involving a 33-year old male worker who was the only survivor out of ten workers in an asbestos carding room. In the report he named the disease "asbestosis[34]."

Dr. Cooke's second case report was followed, in the late 1920s, by a large public health investigation (now known as the Merewether report after one of its two authors) that examined some 360 asbestos-textile workers (reported to be about 15% of the total comparable employment in Britain at the time) and found that about a quarter of them suffered from pulmonary fibrosis [35]. This investigation resulted in improved regulation of the manufacturing of asbestos-containing products in the early 1930s. Regulations included industrial hygiene standards, medical examinations, and inclusion of the asbestos industry into the British Workers' Compensation Act [36].

The first known US workers' compensation claim for asbestos disease was in 1927[37]. In 1930, the first reported autopsy of an asbestosis sufferer was conducted in the United states and later presented by a doctor at the Mayo Clinic, although in this case the exposure involved mining activities somewhere in South America[38].

In 1930, the major asbestos company Johns-Manville produced a report, for internal company use only, about medical reports of asbestos worker fatalities.[39] In 1932, A letter from U.S. Bureau of Mines to asbestos manufacturer Eagle-Picher stated, in relevant part, "It is now known that asbestos dust is one of the most dangerous dusts to which man is exposed".[40] In 1933, Metropolitan Life Insurance Co. doctors found that 29% of workers in a Johns-Manville plant had asbestosis.[39] Likewise, in 1933, Johns-Manville officials settle lawsuits by 11 employees with asbestosis on the condition that the employees' lawyer agree to never again "directly or indirectly participate in the bringing of new actions against the Corporation."[40] In 1934, officials of two large asbestos companies, Johns-Manville and Raybestos-Manhattan, edited an article about the diseases of asbestos workers written by a Metropolitan Life Insurance Company doctor. The changes downplayed the danger of asbestos dust.[40] In 1935, officials of Johns-Manville and Raybestos-Manhattan instructed the editor of Asbestos magazine to publish nothing about asbestosis.[40] In 1936, a group of asbestos companies agreed to sponsor research on the health effects of asbestos dust, but required that the companies maintain complete control over the disclosure of the results.[39]


In 1942, an internal Owens-Corning corporate memo refer to "medical literature on asbestosis . . . . scores of publications in which the lung and skin hazards of asbestos are discussed."[39] Either in 1942 or 1943, the president of Johns-Manville, Lewis H. Brown, says that the managers of another asbestos company were "a bunch of fools for notifying employees who had asbestosis." When one of the managers asks, "do you mean to tell me you would let them work until they dropped dead?" The response is reported to have been, "Yes. We save a lot of money that way."[41] In 1944, a Metropolitan Life Insurance Company report found 42 cases of asbestosis among 195 asbestos miners.[39]


In 1951, asbestos companies removed all references to cancer before allowing publication of research they sponsored.[42] In 1952, Dr. Kenneth Smith, Johns-Manville medical director, recommended (unsuccessfully) that warning labels be attached to products containing asbestos. Later, Smith testified: "It was a business decision as far as I could understand . . . the corporation is in business to provide jobs for people and make money for stockholders and they had to take into consideration the effects of everything they did and if the application of a caution label identifying a product as hazardous would cut into sales, there would be serious financial implications."[43] In 1953, National Gypsum's safety director wrote to the Indiana Division of Industrial Hygiene, recommending that acoustic plaster mixers wear respirators "because of the asbestos used in the product." Another company official noted that the letter is "full of dynamite" and urged that it be retrieved before reaching its destination. A memo in the files noted that the company "succeeded in stopping" the letter, which "will be modified."[44]

1960s-early 80s

Modern regulation

In 1989 the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued the Asbestos Ban and Phase Out Rule which was subsequently overturned in the case of Corrosion Proof Fittings v. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 1991. This ruling leaves many consumer products that can still legally contain trace amounts of asbestos. For a clarification of products which legally contain asbestos read the EPA's clarification statement.[45]

The EPA has proposed a concentration limit of 7 million fibers per liter of drinking water for long fibers (lengths greater than or equal to 5 µm). The OSHA, (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) has set limits of 100,000 fibers with lengths greater than or equal to 5 µm per cubic meter of workplace air for 8-hour shifts and 40-hour work weeks.[46]

Contamination of other products

Asbestos and vermiculite

Vermiculite is a hydrated laminar magnesium-aluminum-iron silicate which resembles mica. It can be used for many industrial applications and has been used as a replacement for asbestos. Some ore bodies of vermiculite have been found to contain small amounts of asbestos.[47] One vermiculite mine operated by W. R. Grace and Company in Libby, Montana exposed workers and community residents to danger by mining contaminated vermiculite, in 1999 the EPA began cleanup efforts and now the area is a superfund cleanup area.[48] The EPA has determined that harmful asbestos is released not only from the mine, but also through other activities that disturb soil in the area.[49]

Asbestos and talc

Talc is sometimes contaminated with asbestos.[50] In 2000, tests in a certified asbestos-testing laboratory found the tremolite form of amphibole asbestos in three out of eight major brands of children's crayons (oil pastels) that are made partly from talc — Crayola, Prang, and Rose Art.[51] In Crayola crayons, the tests found asbestos levels from 0.05% in Carnation Pink to 2.86% in Orchid; in Prang crayons, the range was from 0.3% in Periwinkle to 0.54% in Yellow; in Rose Art crayons, it was from 0.03% in Brown to 1.20% in Orange. Overall, 32 different types of crayons from these brands contained more than trace amounts of asbestos, and eight others contained trace amounts. The Art and Creative Materials Institute, a trade association which tests the safety of crayons on behalf of the makers, initially insisted the test results must be incorrect, although they later said they do not test for asbestos.[51] In May 2000, Crayola said tests by materials analyst, Richard Lee, of two of its crayons were negative for asbestos, although it later emerged that Lee had testified in lawsuits over 250 times on behalf of the asbestos industry, which paid him US$7 million.[52] In June 2000, Binney & Smith, the maker of Crayola, and the other makers agreed to stop using talc in their products, and changed their product formulations in the United States.[52] The mining company, R T Vanderbilt Co of Gouvernor, New York, which supplied the talc to the crayon makers, insists there is no asbestos in its talc "to the best of our knowledge and belief",[53] but tests by the United States Mine Safety and Health Administration found asbestos in all four talc samples that it tested in 2000.[52]

Asbestos in construction


Asbestos is not part of a ASTM E 1527-05 Phase I Environmental Site Assessment (ESA). A Building Survey for Asbestos is considered an out-of-scope consideration under the industry standard ASTM 1527-05 Phase I ESA (see ASTM E 1527-05). ASTM Standard E 2356-04 should be consulted by the owner or owners' agent to determine which type of asbestos building survey is appropriate, typically either a baseline survey or a design survey of functional areas. Both types of surveys are explained in detail under ASTM Standard E 2356-04. Typically, a baseline survey is performed by an EPA (or State) licensed asbestos inspector. The baseline survey provides the buyer with sufficient information on presumed asbestos at the facility, often which leads to reduction in the assessed value of the building (due primarily to forthcoming abatement costs). Note: EPA NESHAP and OSHA Regulations must be consulted in addition to ASTM Standard E 2356-04 to ensure all statutory requirments are satisfied, ex. notification requirements for renovation/demolition. Asbestos is not a material covered under CERCLA's innocent purchaser defense.

In some instances, the U.S. EPA includes asbestos contaminated facilities on the Superfund National Priorities list (NPL). Buyers should be careful not to purchase facilities, even with a ASTM E 1527-05 Phase I ESA completed, without a full understanding of all the hazards in a building or at a property, without evaluating non-scope ASTM E 1527-05 materials, such as asbestos, lead, PCBs, mercury, radon, et al. A standard ASTM E 1527-05 does not include asbestos surveys as standard practice.

Asbestos construction in developing countries

Some developing countries, such as India and China, have continued widespread use of asbestos. The most common is corrugated asbestos-cement sheets or "A/C Sheets" for roofing and for side walls. Millions of homes, factories, schools or sheds and shelters continue to use asbestos. Everest Industries (formerly Eternit Everest)[54], Hyderabad, Visakha Industries and RamCo are some of the major asbestos products manufacturers in India.

Cutting these sheets to size and drilling holes to receive 'J' bolts to help secure the sheets to roof framing is done on site. There has been no significant change in production and use of A/C Sheets in developing countries following the widespread restrictions in developed nations.


Main article: Asbestos and the law

Asbestos litigation is the longest, most expensive mass tort in U.S. history, involving more than 8,400 defendants and 730,000 claimants as of 2002 according to the RAND Corporation[55], and at least one defendant reported claim counts in excess of 800,000 in 2006[56].

Current trends indicate that the worldwide rate at which people are diagnosed with the disease will likely increase through the next decade[57]. Analysts have estimated that the total costs of asbestos litigation in the USA alone is over $250 billion.[58]

Litigation exists outside the United States in England, Scotland, Ireland, the Netherlands, France, Australia, and Japan among other nations. See the companion article for further information.

The volume of the asbestos liability has concerned manufacturers and insurers and reinsuers[59]. The amounts and method of allocating compensation have been the source of many court cases, and government attempts at resolution of existing and future cases.

One notable asbestos lawyer, Peter Angelos, used the vast fortune he gained from asbestos lawsuits to buy the Baltimore Orioles. [60]

Critics of safety regulations

According to Natural Resources Canada, chrysotile asbestos is not as dangerous as once thought. According to their fact sheet, "...current knowledge and modern technology can successfully control the potential for health and environmental harm posed by chrysotile".[61] In May of 1998, Canada requested consultations with the European Commission concerning France's 1996 prohibition of the importation and sale of asbestos.[62]

Canada claimed that the French measures contravened provisions of the Agreements on Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures and on Technical Barriers to Trade, and the GATT 1994.[62]

The EC said that substitute materials had been developed in place of asbestos, which are safer to human health. It stressed that the French measures were not discriminatory, and were fully justified for public health reasons. The EC said that in the July consultations, it had tried to convince Canada that the measures were justified, and that just as Canada broke off consultations, it was in the process of submitting substantial scientific data in favour of the asbestos ban.[62]

Critics of Canada's support of the use of chrysotile asbestos argue that Canada is ignoring the risks associated with the material. The CFMEU pointed out that selling asbestos is illegal in Canada, but it is exported and most exports go to developing countries. Canada has pressured countries, including Chile, and the UN to avoid asbestos bans.[63]

Asbestos regulation critics include author and Fox News columnist Steven Milloy and the asbestos industry.[64] Critics sometimes argue that increased regulation does more harm than good and that replacements to asbestos are inferior. An example is the suggestion by Dixy Lee Ray and others that the shuttle Challenger exploded because the maker of O-ring putty was pressured by the EPA into ceasing production of asbestos-laden putty.[65][66] However, scientists point out that the putty used in Challenger's final flight did contain asbestos, and failures in the putty were not responsible for the failure of the O-ring that led to loss of the shuttle.[67][66]

Asbestos was used in the first 40 floors of the World Trade Center towers causing an airborne contamination among lower Manhattan after the towers collapsed in a series of suicide attacks.[68] Steven Milloy suggests that the World Trade Center towers could still be standing or at least would have stood longer had a 1971 ban not stopped the completion of the asbestos coating above the 64th floor [69]. This was not mentioned in the National Institute of Standards and Technology's report on the towers' collapse. Insulation that replaced asbestos is believed to have equivalent fire resistance, and any sort of sprayed-on insulation, including asbestos-based material, would have been removed in large areas by the impact of the planes.[70][71][72]

Substitutes for asbestos in construction

Fiberglass insulation was invented in 1938 and is now the most commonly used type of insulation material. In Europe stone- and glasswool are the main insulators in houses.

Many companies that produced asbestos-cement products that were reinforced with asbestos fibres have developed products incorporating organic fibres. One such product was known as Eternit and another "Everite" now use "Nutec" fibres which consist of organic fibres, portland cement and silica. In gaskets and friction materials also stonefibres are used.

Another potential fiber is Polybenzimidazole or PBI fiber. Polybenzimidazole fiber is a synthetic fiber with high melting point of 760°C that also does not ignite. Due to its exceptional thermal and chemical stability, it is often used by fire departments and space agencies.

Recycling and disposal

In most developed countries, asbestos is typically disposed of as hazardous waste in landfill sites.

Asbestos can also be recycled by transforming it into harmless silicate glass. A process of thermal decomposition at 1000-1250°C produces a mixture of non-hazardous silicate phases, and at temperatures above 1250°C it produces silicate glass.[73] Microwave thermal treatment can be used in an industrial manufacturing process to transform asbestos and asbestos-containing waste into porcelain stoneware tiles, porous single-fired wall tiles, and ceramic bricks.[74]

See also




  1. ^ American Cancer Society
  2. ^ a b Wisconson Department of Natural Resources
  3. ^ WA Deer, RA Howie, J Zussman (1992). An Introduction to the Rock-Forming Minerals, 2nd Edition, Longman. 
  4. ^ World Mineral Production 2001-2005. British Geological Survey. Retrieved on 2007-08-03.
  5. ^ History of Asbestos
  6. ^ a b c Asbestos Resource Center
  7. ^ Time Magazine
  8. ^ a b c Mesothelioma Center
  9. ^ a b c Understanding Asbestos Mesothelioma Applied Research Center
  10. ^ Dehkhoda Persian Dictionary
  11. ^ a b University of Calgary
  12. ^ A Brief History of Asbestos Use and Associated Health Risks website
  13. ^ a b History of science This article incorporates content from the 1728 Cyclopaedia, a publication in the public domain.
  14. ^ a b c Shipyards, a Crucible for Tragedy
  15. ^ Horrible Toll Could Have Been Avoided
  16. ^ Cancer Research
  17. ^ American Cancer Society
  18. ^ Asbestos in Japan
  19. ^ Australian prohibition on use of chrysotile asbestos
  20. ^ a b Asbestos deaths just the tip of the iceberg Japan Times Online
  21. ^ American Cancer Society
  22. ^ Ley, Brian (1999). Diameter of a Human Hair. The Physics Factbook.
  23. ^ Centre for disease control article on asbestos
  24. ^ Medscape article on asbestos
  25. ^ a b c Raloff, Janet (July 8, 2006), ,
  26. ^ "Not in Their Back Yard", Mother Jones, May/June 2007.
  27. ^ Meeker, G.P.; Lowers, H.A. & Swayze, G.A. et al. (December, 2006), ,
  28. ^ P. Brodeur, "Annals of Law, The Asbestos Industry on Trial, 1-A Failure to Warn, The New Yorker, June 10, 1985, pp 57
  29. ^ Chief Inspector of Factories and Workshops, "Annual Report of the Chief Inspector of Factories and Workshops for the Year 1898", 1899, cited in Tweedale referenced below
  30. ^ D. Auribault, "Note sur l'Hygiène et la Sécurité des Ouvriers dans les Filatures et Tissages d'Amianté (On hygiene and security of the workers in the spinning and weaving of asbestos)" in Le Bulletin de l'Inspection du Travail, 1906, pp 120 - 132. This summary was given by Broduer and roughly confirmed by Merewether & Price in the report cited below.
  31. ^ H. M. Murray, testimony before the Departmental Committee on Compensation for Industrial Diseases "Minutes of Evidence, Appendices and Index", 1907. pg 127 cited and summarized in Merewether & Price referenced below
  32. ^ F. L. Hoffman, "Mortality from Respiratory Diseases in Dusty Trades", Bulletin of the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, Vol. 231, pp 176 - 180. Mr. Hoffman was a professional statistician, employed by Prudential with an international reputation on public health matters
  33. ^ W. E. Cooke, "Fibrosis of the Lungs Due to the Inhalation of Asbestos Dust," British Medical Journal, 1927, pg. 487
  34. ^ W. E. Cooke, "Pulmonary Asbestosis," British Medical Journal, 1927, pp. 1024 - 1025, cited in G. Peters & B. Peters, Sourcebook on Asbestos Diseases, Volume 1, 1980, pg. G1
  35. ^ E.R.A. Merewether & C. W. Price, "Report on Effects of Asbestos Dust on the Lung" H.M. Stationery Office, 1930
  36. ^ G. Tweedale, "Magic Mineral to Killer Dust, Turner & Newall and the Asbestos Hazard", Oxford University Press, 2001, page 21
  37. ^ Broduer, pp 59 - 60
  38. ^ R. G. Mills, "Pulmonary Asbestosis: Report of a Case", Minnesota Medicine, July 1930, pp 495 - 499
  39. ^ a b c d e Barry I. Castleman, Asbestos: Medical and Legal Aspects, 4th edition, Aspen Law and Business, Englewood Cliffs, NJ 1996, p.195
  40. ^ a b c d Paul Brodeur (1985). Outrageous Misconduct: The Asbestos Industry on Trial, 1st Edition, Pantheon Books. ISBN 0-394-53320-8. 
  41. ^ Testimony of Charles H. Roemer, Deposition taken April 25, 1984, Johns-Manville Corp., et al v. the United States of America, U.S. Claims Court Civ. No. 465-83C, cited in Barry I. Castleman, Asbestos: Medical and Legal Aspects, 4th edition, Aspen Law and Business, Englewood Cliffs, NJ 1996, p.581
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  43. ^ Barry I. Castleman, Asbestos: Medical and Legal Aspects, 4th edition, Aspen Law and Business, Englewood Cliffs, NJ 1996, p.666
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  46. ^ Agency for toxic substances and disease registry article on asbestos
  47. ^ EPA Asbestos Contamination In Vermiculite
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  49. ^ [ Risk Assessment - US EPA]
  50. ^ A USGS Study of Talc Deposits and Associated Amphibole Asbestos Within Mined Deposits of the Southern Death Valley Region, California
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  65. ^ Lehr, Jay H., editor (1992). Rational Readings on Environmental Concerns. Van Nostrand Reinhold. ISBN 0-442-01146-6. 
  66. ^ a b Asbestos and Challenger Disaster
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Additional reading

  • George B. Guthrie and Brooke T. Mossman, editors, Health Effects of Mineral Dusts, Mineralogical Society of America Reviews in Mineralogy v. 28, 584 pages (1993) ISBN 0-939950-33-2

Mineral and mining links

  • Parachrysotile (asbestos) at the Mineral Database
  • Univ. of Minn.: Asbestos
  • Asbestos Newspaper Articles Archive
  • Asbestos in the World
  • White Gold Pioneers: Asbestos Mining — The origins of asbestos mining, illustrated with many early photographs

Health and the environment

  • About Your House — General Series — Asbestos
  • Hazards magazine's comprehensive asbestos resource pages
  • The Miracle Mineral Fiber - Asbestos
  • CBC Digital Archives - Asbestos: Magic mineral or deadly dust?
  • An article on the health impact of asbestos from Liverpool's 'Nerve' magazine
  • The Wittenoom Tragedy, Asbestos Diseases Society of Australia.
  • Health and Safety - Asbestosis (TUC Resources, UK)
  • International Asbestos Victims Memorial
  • About Asbestos European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (OSHA)
  • Asbestos contamination near abandoned mine
  • Asbestos Health Risk Assessment
  • Asbestos Removal Procedures
  • A USGS map of "Naturally Occurring Asbestos" in Eastern America
  • Shipbuilding's Deadly Legacy(series of articles from a Newspaper local to Hampton Roads, VA)
  • EPA refused to warn of asbestos dangers
  • Asbestos Danger: Do You Have Zonolite In Your Attic?

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Asbestos". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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