Understanding the Different Types of Asbestos and Their Health Risks

Understanding the Different Types of Asbestos and Their Health Risks

Asbestos was once believed to be a miracle material with incredible strength, durability, soundproofing and fire-resistant properties. Now, it is known for what it really is: an extremely hazardous substance responsible for tens of thousands of deaths worldwide. 

In broad terms, asbestos is the name for a group of six minerals that are naturally found in bundles of fibres in the environment. These fibres can be separated into long, thin threads and used for commercial or industrial purposes. 

These fibres accumulate over time. When structures containing asbestos are disturbed through damage, drilling or other activity, the fibres are released into the air. When inhaled, they can become trapped inside the lungs and remain there for years, leading to scarring, inflammation and serious—even lethal—health consequences. 

Perhaps the most frightening aspect of this reality is that health issues caused by asbestos exposure can take decades to develop. By the time symptoms are evident and a diagnosis is made, it is usually too late to mitigate the effects. 

Because of this, it is crucial to have your property tested for asbestos. At Consultex Labs, we provide professional asbestos services, including sampling, identification, and soil testing. If you think your property may contain asbestos, call now for our asbestos services and get preventative measures underway.    

What Was Asbestos Used For?

Historically, asbestos was lauded for its resistance to fire, heat and chemicals and inability to conduct electricity. This led to its use in everything from cigarette filters and salon hairdryers to make-up and talcum powders. It was also popular on film sets. The “snow” in that famous Wizard of Oz poppy field scene? Asbestos. According to some research, surgeons even use it to close incisions following a lung or heart operation. 

Most commonly, however, it was used in construction applications for homes and businesses, including roofing, drainage pipes, insulation boards, cement sheet cladding, sprayable wall surfaces, ceilings, floorings and textiles. After the health risks of asbestos exposure were discovered, the New Zealand government banned its importance in 1984 and phased out its use by 1897. Despite these actions, it is still present in a significant number of buildings and products created before 1990 – meaning testing is just as important now as it was then. 


Here are some other materials and products asbestos can be found in:


  • Spouting components
  • Vehicle brakes and clutches
  • Oven gloves
  • Fire blankets
  • Ironing board pads

Types of Asbestos

Asbestos has two mineral families: serpentine and amphibole. Within these families are six different types of asbestos, detailed below. 

Chrysotile Asbestos

The most commonly used form of asbestos, chrysotile, is a white, curly substance. It is found in cladding, plaster, roofing materials, insulation, drainage pipes, gaskets, boiler seals, ceiling panels, and more. It was also used in automotive parts such as brake linings.

Amosite Asbestos

Amosite is a brown fibre that was typically used for pipe insulation and in ceiling tiles, gaskets, and cement sheets.

Crocidolite Asbestos

A blue fibre, crocidolite, was frequently used in cigarette filters, construction, and steam engine insulation. It was also used in plastics, cement products and spray-on coatings.   

Anthophyllite Asbestos

Anthophyllite is a contaminant in chrysotile asbestos and is occasionally used in construction materials and insulation products.

Tremolite & Actinolite Asbestos

These two types of asbestos were not typically used commercially. However, they can be found as contaminants in chrysotile asbestos, specifically in materials such as cement, roof tiles, plumbing materials, and insulation. 

Asbestos-Related Health Risks

There are many health implications of asbestos exposure. Over time, asbestos fibres that have been inhaled and stuck in the lungs manifest into severe health conditions, including cancer. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, all types of asbestos are classified as known carcinogens. Below are some of the serious and fatal diseases caused by asbestos.

Lung Cancer

Lung cancer caused by asbestos appears visually the same as lung cancer caused by other factors, such as smoking. Of all asbestos-related diseases, lung cancer causes the most deaths, the Mesothelioma Centre states. It takes at least a decade for this type of cancer to develop after initial exposure. 

Pleural Thickening

Extensive asbestos exposure can lead to this condition, which is when the lining of the lung, known as the pleura, thickens and causes the lung to squeeze. Symptoms include ongoing chest pain and shortness of breath. 


A cancer found in the pleura and the lining of the lower digestive tract, mesothelioma is closely linked with asbestos exposure. The risk of this cancer increases with the volume of exposure, and once diagnosed, it is nearly always lethal. 


Prolonged exposure to asbestos can lead to extreme scarring of the lung, called asbestosis. This condition causes a gradual shortening of the breath, which can be fatal. 

Your Local Asbestos Experts

At Consultex Labs, we are experienced with all asbestos-related activities. Our qualified, experienced surveyors and lab technicians execute their work with the utmost precision and your safety in mind. You can trust us to swiftly sample and identify contaminants in your residential or commercial property and supply a professional management plan recommendation. 

If you are concerned that asbestos may be present in your home or workplace, contact us today for asbestos services and solutions.

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