You may be aware of common locations where asbestos is found, but it might surprise you to learn about its origin. Asbestos is a naturally occurring fibrous silicate mineral or put simply, asbestos is a fluffy rock!
Asbestos does not become fluffy until it has been processed, but once it has, and in the same way that pumice stone is a rock that floats, asbestos is a fluffy rock. The three common types of asbestos are crocidolite, amosite and chrysotile; although other forms can be found in premises – fibrous actinolite, fibrous anthophyllite and fibrous tremolite.
Crocidolite, amosite and chrysotile are also known as blue (the most dangerous), brown (dangerous) and white asbestos (the least dangerous) respectively, although the colour is not always significant in identification.
Occasionally in publications, there is a reference to the mineral groups to which asbestos belongs. Chrysotile belongs to the serpentine group (like fine threads of cotton) while the five other types listed above belong to the amphibole group (like fine needles).
The properties of asbestos have been known from ancient times. This is not just that asbestos was fireproof, but that is was also dangerous. The Roman knew not to buy slaves from asbestos mines because although they might look healthy when bought, they did not live long.
Modern commercial history began in 1870 when a large deposit was found in Canada. The greatest use of asbestos in the UK was from around the 1950s through to the 1980s especially in system built housing or refurbishment of older buildings, factories and schools.