Asbestos Uses properties types and consequences

What is asbestos? Composition

The term asbestos derives from the Greek word asbestos which means “inextinguishable, indestructible and inexhaustible”. It is a generic name for a group of fibrous silicate minerals. In this article we will explain the uses of asbestos in various fields of life.

There are two groups of asbestos based on their fiber.

Serpentine: Here the mineral has curved fibers.

Amphibole: In this case the minerals have straight fibers.

Which ones are more harmful and why?

The difference lies mainly in having a different diameter, shape, length and stiffness.

In the case of amphiboles, which are considered the most pathogenic, their fibers are less than 3 microns in diameter, straight, short and rigid, which makes them more likely to reach the lowest parts of the respiratory tract. Besides, these fibers are not soluble in water or acids, so they remain inside us much longer.

On the contrary, the serpentine fibers are larger than 3 microns in diameter, coiled, long and soft, which is why they tend to get trapped in the upper part of our respiratory system, making it easier for them to be expelled from it (a sneeze for instance). They are also soluble in both water and acids. Therefore, this type of fiber has a greater elimination from the human body once inhaled.

Types of asbestos

The main types of asbestos that have been marketed and used are:


Also known as white asbestos, it belongs to the serpentine group. The resistance to alkaline attack makes chrysolite become a reinforcing material in construction products such as fiber cement. Used both in ceilings, as in walls and floors.


Also called blue asbestos, it belongs to the group of amphiboles. It has a high resistance to acids, which made it the perfect material for making asbestos-cement pipes, sewage… and its high insulating capacity was used to act as a lining for wiring. Its toxicity is the highest.


It is known as brown asbestos and belongs, like crocidolite, to the amphibole group. With a high resistance to traction and heat. It was used in the building for acoustic and anti-condensation purposes. His participation in constructive elements has been extensive. From the protection of steel structures, pipes, slabs and even insulating panels.

Where is asbestos?

Due to its great boom in the 1960s and 1970s, due to its unique properties, asbestos was used in countless construction elements, both in construction and in public works.

Tiles, traffic signs, pipes, insulating boards, fire retardant products, etc…

It was also very important in industry and in naval and railway construction.

Chrysolite was the most used type of asbestos.

asbestos risks

The risks involved in the use of asbestos or asbestos occur when there are damages, fires, deterioration or alterations of the products that contain them in their composition. These actions cause the fibers that contain asbestos to emerge and can be transported through the air and end up in our body. As we have already mentioned a few lines above, part of these small fibers will be lodged forever in our lungs, which in the long run and depending on the time of exposure to it, can cause fatal diseases.

Starting with inflammation and infection in our lungs, they can lead to:

  • Lung cancer.
  • Pleural thickening.
  • Asbestosis.
  • Mesotheliomas.

Now we are describing the uses of asbestos below.

Asbestos uses

Over the years, asbestos has been used for many different purposes due to its mechanical, chemical, temperature and fire resistance properties. Below are different sectors where asbestos has been used:

  1. Construction Industry. A large part of the production of asbestos materials was used in the construction sector. Currently, exposure to asbestos fibers lies in the removal, disposal or handling of such materials.

  2. Car industry. In this sector, asbestos was used as a friction material in brake shoes and clutch discs and as anti-corrosion protection.

  3. Textile industry. In the manufacture of flame retardant fire protection clothing, safety equipment, ropes and cables, etc.

  4. Electrical industry. Coating of generators and production stations. Gaskets, washers, insulation, etc.

  5. Chemical industry. As a filler for insulating and plastic materials, mixed with tar for the manufacture of paints, mixed with rubber for the manufacture of sealing gaskets, etc.

  6. demolition work There may be exposure to asbestos fibers in the demolition of insulation or buildings with such content.

  7. Maintenance works. Operations carried out by carpenters, mechanics, repair of brake shoes, maintenance work on heating systems, air conditioning, plumbing, water and gas pipes, placement or removal of false ceilings, where there is a possibility of contact with projected asbestos, etc.

Some of the professions most affected by the use of asbestos are the following:

  • Manufacture of asbestos products.

  • asphalt mixers.

  • Auto mechanics.

  • Acoustic product installers.

  • Workers and users of asbestos-cement.

  • Cardboard and asbestos paper workers.

  • Asbestos millers and miners.

  • Boilermakers.

  • chemicals.

  • Construction workers:
    – Bricklayers
    – Demolition workers

  • Firemen.

  • glass workers.

  • Iron gang miners.

  • Insulators.

  • Pawns.

  • machinery producers.

  • Maintenance workers:

– Electricians
– Carpenters
– Plumbers

  • Extraction and refinery of oil and gas.

  • Works on pipes and water lines.

  • Power plant workers.

  • Rubber workers.

  • Reinforced plastics workers.

  • Roofs.

  • Metal workers.

  • Shipyards.

  • Stone workers.

  • Talc miners.

  • textile workers.

  • Carriers.

  • Turbine manufacturing.

  • Plastochemicals.

  • Railway.

  • Others .

We hope that after reading this article you have understood completely the uses of asbestos.

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