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Understanding the Types of Asbestos


Asbestos Removals Marlborough investigates the types of asbestos that could be lurking around your home or business. Plus; when it’s time to call in the experts.


It’s no surprise how damaging asbestos exposure can be. This harmful toxic fibre was once a well-loved and highly utilised material around the world. Until it became undeniable the health consequences its wide use was causing. A 2017 study estimated that the global rate of death stands around 237,000 however this is still climbing daily, despite the bans in force in many countries. Today, many unsuspecting home and business owners in New Zealand come into contact with asbestos during renovations.


Three types of asbestos were common around the globe before bans were put in place. These include;

  • Chrysotile (white asbestos)

  • Amosite (brown asbestos)

  • Crocidolite (blue asbestos)

Their colour name is the colour they represent when looking at the fibres closely underneath a microscope. The types are also typically investigated during an asbestos survey if you think you could have any asbestos-related issues in your home or office.


However, it’s important to understand that the colour may not be as easy to determine just by examining the building material. Remember that it depends on what building material it has been mixed with for example – think concrete and coloured flooring. In many cases, you can not even see the asbestos fibres as they are so small and would be mixed with other materials for their building purposes.


Chrysotile (white asbestos)

Chrysotile comes from the serpentine family and is white fine fibers that are short and curly. They have very high heat resistance properties and were a popular choice for building materials in New Zealand before 1990. Chrysotile is a very common form of asbestos that was heavily used in building products and textured coatings –roofing and floor tiles. It is known as the less deadly of its two cousins, but deadly non the less and can cause lung cancer and other asbestos-related diseases if airborne and disturbed. It was commonly used in construction and building in New Zealand between 1940 and 1990. White asbestos also poses a much higher risk to smokers due to the way the chemical compounds interacted with each other, making smokers at a much higher risk than non-smokers when encountering the toxic fibre.


Amosite (brown asbestos)

Brown asbestos is mostly mined and manufactured in Africa and was known for its super heat resistance making it superior for thermal insulation purposes. Brown and blue asbestos were one of the first banned asbestos in Australia and New Zealand. It does have a much higher risk of causing irreversible health issues. It is much more common in sprayed applications such as popcorn ceilings and insulation boards.


Crocidolite (blue asbestos)

Known as blue asbestos Crocidolite is also highly dangerous and known as the most dangerous form of asbestos due to the size of the fine fibres. It is the most brittle of all asbestos making exposure easy when it is disturbed. It is this factor that many experts suggest that Crocidolite is responsible for more deaths than other types of asbestos.


Other types of asbestos include:
Tremolite
Actinolite
Anthophyllite

No matter the form of asbestos – all asbestos is deadly when disturbed. If you have an older home or are considering a renovation or a new office space it is vital to seek professional advice to rule out any dangers. Once disturbed asbestos will not only put you at risk of serious illness and possible death, but it will also be a costly clean-up.


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