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The Main Types of Abestos

Asbestos; Common Types in the UK


Asbestos is not one material per sa, the term Asbestos is coined for a group on materials all derived from silicate material with naturally occurring long fibres. These fibres have several properties which made them desirable as a building material in the 1950’s, the main ones being there resistance to heat, fire and environmental degradation, which make them the perfect building material, but, the double edge of the sword of those properties is their inherent danger to health.

Asbestos was banned as a building material finally in the United Kingdom in 1999, with a partial or initial ban being introduced in 1985. 1950 to 1999 is a huge span of time when a massive amount of rebuilding and construction taking place in the Uk. This span of asbestos use has left a huge legacy of unmapped and unquantified toxic material in the public domain, which is not envisioned to be removed in the next 50 years.

At safeline, we are looking to make sure that the public is aware of potential dangers of all types of Asbestos, and with this in mind we have listed the groups of the materials used that makes up asbestos group.

Asbestos falls into two main groups;

  • Serpentine Asbestos – This is know as white asbestos, derived from magnesium silicate, which produces soft and weavable fibres which made this material the most effective material for manufacture and therefore make this group of “Chrysotile” asbestos the most commonly used in the United Kingdom.
  • Amphibole asbestos – This larger group includes tremolite, crocidolite, amosite, anthophyllite and actinolite. Amphibole asbestos fibres are derived from silicates of magnesium, iron, calcium and sodium. Fibres are not as flexible as the magnesium silicate type as found in serpentine types and are brittle with a rod- or needle shaped structure. Amphibole is  more heat and chemical resistant than serpentine fibres.
    • Crocidolite is known as blue asbestos, this is a sodium iron silicate. Crocidolite fibre are relatively flexible, have a poor resistance to heat, but are highly resistant to acid.
    • Amosite is  often referred to as brown asbestos and is made up of iron magnesium silicate, The
      fibres are usually yellow-grey to dark brown and are very coarse.
    • Anthophyllite is another fibrous form of iron magnesium silicate, again the fibres are grey or brown
      grey similar to amosite but with little to no commercial value.
    • Tremolite is a calcium magnesium silicate  with a grey-white, yellow, green colour to it. It is found as a
      contaminant with other fibres such as chrysotile and has no industrial applications.
    • Actinolite asbestos occurs as a contaminant of both chrysotile and talc deposits.

The general rule to spot these forms of asbestos is to look for colour and texture. DO NOT REMOVE ANY SUSPECTED ASBESTOS MATERIAL YOURSELF! If you suspect that your property contains asbestos (if built between 1945 to 1999 it will do) then call Safeline for a second opinion and a range of removal options.

Safeline Environmental is a leading asbestos removal and management services company, specialising in removal, survey and management of asbestos in the UK.


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