Asbestos is a group of naturally occurring silicate minerals that share the same properties and characteristics:
- thin, fibrous crystals – known as “asbestiform habit” – that can readily separate
- resistant to heat, water, electricity & chemical corrosion.
Initially an asset to various industries with its remarkable heat/water resistant qualities and its ability to strengthen a variety of materials, it was widely used in construction dating back to the early 1800s.
Today, exposure to asbestos is a known cause of many life-threatening diseases such as asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma, all diseases with no known cure.
Even today, with all the advances that have been made, asbestos is still commonly found in properties across the world.
At JAX, we aim to ensure those in the construction industry and beyond remain compliant and, most importantly, safe when dealing with this hazardous and deadly material.
Types of Asbestos
There are six different types of recognized asbestos within 2 identified groups:
- White in colour
- Found in serpentine rocks
- The most common type of commercially used asbestos
- More flexible than any amphibole asbestos
- Brown in colour
- The second most common type of commercially used asbestos
- Banned in the UK in 1985
- Blue in colour
- Harder and more brittle than other types of asbestos
- Considered the most dangerous form of commercially used asbestos
- Banned in the UK in 1985
- Also known as brown asbestos or azbolen asbestos
- Not often used in consumer products
- Traces can still be found in talcum products
Actinolite and Tremolite
- Rarely used commercially
- Not common in the UK
- Traces tended to be extracted when other minerals were being mined
The history of Asbestos
The use of asbestos is thought to date back approximately 4500 years. In fact, it would remain in use for nearly 2000 years before scientists discovered just how dangerous the material was.
With the discovery of just how powerful asbestos was, mining across the world began in the late 1800s.
In the early 1900s, the asbestos industry boomed. It was used to manufacture everything from wall and ceiling panels to insulation, pinboards, ropes, and toilet seats. It was even used as fake snow in classic Hollywood movies!
Although the first reported asbestos related death was in 1906, the effects of exposure takes 15-60 years to develop so it was decades before the true dangers came to light.
By the mid-late 1900s, asbestos was affecting not only those who had worked directly with it, but also their families who were subjected to secondary exposure when workers unknowingly brought asbestos fibres home on their clothing and belongings.
Now inhalation of asbestos fibres is considered extremely dangerous to your health and unfortunately, it is fatal in many cases.
Asbestos around the world
As the dangers of asbestos use were gradually brought to light, many countries created legislation around working with this dangerous material and some banned its use completely.
Despite this, there are many countries across the world still using it and some even continue to actively mine asbestos. Russia, China, India and Kazakhstan still have active asbestos mines and these leading producers also export to other large countries such as Thailand. Many more developing countries use asbestos despite the severe health risks as it is cheap and extremely resilient. Unfortunately, it’s extremely likely that asbestos workers in these countries, and even people living close to manufacturing plants will develop some form of asbestos related disease.
There is still a global push for more awareness and regulation regarding the use of asbestos across the world. In June 2019, Columbia became the latest country to impose a complete ban on the manufacturing and use of asbestos. The bill will take effect in 2021, too late for journalist Ana Cecilia Niño who fell ill with an asbestos-related cancer, obtained from living in close proximity to a factory that used it, and spent her dying days campaigning for the ban. She passed away in 2012.
A foundation was set up in her name to continue raising awareness using educational activities, social networking and new technologies. As remarkable as this is, Columbia is one of only seven countries in the world to have completely banned asbestos.
At JAX, we work hard to build awareness of the dangers of asbestos and implications for public health across the UK and beyond.