Asbestos is a word that refers to a group of minerals that are made up of microscopic fibres. There were three major forms of the material in the construction industry between the 1950s and 1980s: Chrysotile, amosite and crocidolite. These are all now class 1 human carcinogens that have a detrimental impact on the health of those who have inhaled the fibres.
Chrysotile is a serpentine mineral which was in cement products and also goes by the name of white asbestos. This form can be found in Artex, textile flash guards, old vinyl floor covering, rope seals, low-density insulation boards, and thermal insulation products. Amosite is set apart by its brown fibres and is an amphibole mineral.
This type is commonly found in low-density insulation boards, thermal insulation, and sometimes composite materials like Bakelite. Another amphibole mineral Crocidolite is noticeable from its blue fibres and is often in thermal insulation and composite gaskets. Tremolite, actinolite and anthophyllite are three other types of the mineral but are extremely rare in the UK.
The first ban on crocidolite and amosite use was in 1985, with a further ban on chrysotile becoming law in 1999. Any building construction prior to the year 2000 may well have the substance within it. If the material containing these fibres remain intact they pose very little risk. However, once damaged or disturbed the fibres are released into the atmosphere.
This leads to an increase in risk of illness and long-term disease for those working within environments that may contain the substance. Those at a high risk include plumbers, carpenters, electricians, painters, builders, and miners.