What are the 6 Main Types of Asbestos and how were they used?

Acorn_Square Service-1

Asbestos is a collection of naturally occurring minerals extensively used in construction, shipbuilding, and other industries from the 1950s until the 1980s. There are 6 main types of asbestos, which can be categorised into the Serpentine and Amphibole families.

The fibres of Serpentine asbestos are softer and more flexible when compared with the Amphibole family, whose fibres are hard and brittle. This makes them more difficult to expel from the lungs if inhaled. All 6 main types of asbestos pose a serious risk to health, however, and can cause chronic and life-shortening disease.

6 main types of asbestos

1.     Chrysotile (white asbestos)

Chrysotile was the most commonly used form of asbestos worldwide and is the only member of the Serpentine family. Its soft flexible fibres means it was typically used in roofing material such as corrugated asbestos sheeting, and textiles including fire blankets and safety clothing. The motor industry also used chrysotile asbestos in brake linings, clutches, and gaskets.

2.     Amosite (brown asbestos)

Amosite is the trade name for grunerite, a mineral mined mainly in South Africa. Its strength and considerable heat resistance made it a popular component for insulating materials. As part of the Amphibole family, it’s brittle and easily broken, and is considered the second most dangerous of the 6 main types of asbestos. 

3.     Crocidolite (blue asbestos)

Crocidolite is widely regarded as the most hazardous due to its ‘friability,’ or propensity to crumble when disturbed. Again, it’s part of the Amphibole family, with extremely thin and brittle fibres. Crocidolite was widely used in cement products, spray coatings, and pipe insulation, and even as a filter for cigarettes.

Unlike chrysotile, amosite, and crocidolite, the following three types of asbestos weren’t widely used on a commercial basis.

4.     Anthophyllite

Anthophyllite fibres are very brittle in nature, but unlike other members of the Amphibole family, have a low tensile strength. It wasn’t widely used in industry, but can be found in some products including vermiculite, talcum powder, and composite flooring. 

5.     Tremolite

Tremolite was only mined in small quantities but may be a component of certain asbestos products such as asbestos cement sheets, loft insulation, chalks and ceramics, as well as fire doors and gaskets.

6.     Actinolite

Although actinolite wasn’t used commercially in its own right, this mineral can be found in several asbestos products including loft insulation, sealants, and fireproofing materials.

Is all asbestos dangerous?

All 6 main types of asbestos pose a risk to health if the fibres are inhaled or ingested. The danger with asbestos materials is that over time they start to degrade, and if disturbed, the fibres are easily released into the air.

It’s very difficult for the body to expel them at this point, which has led to a current annual mortality rate of more than 5,000 due to asbestos diseases, including mesothelioma and asbestos-related lung cancer.¹

If you would like more information on the 6 main types of asbestos and where you might encounter them, please contact one of our specialist consultants at Acorn Analytical Services. We’re a UK wide asbestos consultancy, offering a full range of asbestos services including asbestos awareness training, asbestos surveys, asbestos testing, and asbestos removal.

Neil Munro

I work in a dual role at Acorn Analytical Services focused primarily on growing and leading the business from our Northampton office base. My focus is on overseeing all sales, marketing and financial activities from Northampton. I assist clients with high-level asbestos management strategies and training. Together with Ian Stone I host our weekly podcast – Asbestos Knowledge Empire and I'm Co-author of Asbestos The Dark Arts and Fear and Loathing of Health and Safety.

Need Help? Request a Call Back

Request a call back from one of our expert Asbestos Consultants who will help you identify what you need

More Asbestos Articles

Acorn Analytical Services asbestos surveyors Joseph Bell Daniel Crask at the Frank Bruno Foundation Centre e1618310393601

Acorn helps boxing legend to launch new centre

We are very proud to reveal we have been involved in an exciting new project to help create a new centre backed by none other than boxing legend, Frank Bruno. The Frank Bruno Foundation exists to provide support and the encouragement to succeed to those facing and recovering from mental ill-health. Its volunteers have worked …

Read MoreAcorn helps boxing legend to launch new centre

Asbestos artex testing 2

Asbestos Artex Testing – Textured Decorative Coatings

Why would you need asbestos Artex testing? First things first we need to explain that the word “Artex” is a trademark of Artex Ltd which is a company based in the UK. The word Artex is commonly used to describe a textured/decorative coating commonly used for interior decorating. Artex or textured coatings were frequently used …

Read MoreAsbestos Artex Testing – Textured Decorative Coatings

Acorn Jan 2020 Low Res 135 e1617699112137

What does asbestos mean to me?

When we decided to launch the ‘What does asbestos mean to me?’ campaign, which runs alongside Global Asbestos Awareness Week this week (#2021GAAW), I was asked to answer the question and I couldn’t help but get reflective. I’ve never met anyone that dreams of going into the asbestos industry when they grow up and I was no different. In fact, …

Read MoreWhat does asbestos mean to me?

Ian Stone and Neil Munro What does asbestos mean to me 2021GAAW scaled e1617701400805

Campaign shines a spotlight on dangers of asbestos

One of the UK’s most experienced teams of asbestos experts is championing a global campaign which launches today to raise awareness of the deadly substance. Leading asbestos consultancy Acorn Analytical Services is backing Global Asbestos Awareness Week – which runs from April 1 to April 7 – with the launch of its own campaign entitled …

Read MoreCampaign shines a spotlight on dangers of asbestos

hammer 719061 1920 e1616677177737

Companies fined for failing to manage asbestos safely

We recently heard about a case of a construction company and a property management company being fined thousands of pounds after they failed to manage asbestos safely during the refurbishment of a former office block in Stockport. Last month, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) revealed that Manchester Magistrates’ Court heard Samer Constructions Limited had …

Read MoreCompanies fined for failing to manage asbestos safely

Collage e1608286815218

Mesothelioma – Hard to Say, Easy to Prevent

In recent months we have been privileged to support a dynamic new charity that is fighting to eradicate the asbestos-related cancer mesothelioma. ActionMeso launched last year to bring together mesothelioma patients with carers, healthcare and legal professionals, asbestos removal firms and construction companies. Together they want to raise awareness across the UK about this devastating …

Read MoreMesothelioma – Hard to Say, Easy to Prevent

Acorn Jan 2020 Low Res 166 e1615384829809

Acorn launches free asbestos advice surgery

When we say we’re committed to eradicating people’s asbestos problems we mean it! Which is why we’re excited to launch our asbestos advice surgery! In our day-to-day work we provide businesses with innovative asbestos management services which reduce their risk of asbestos exposure, prosecution and fines. We know that for many people asbestos feels like …

Read MoreAcorn launches free asbestos advice surgery

Sian Stone Dan Crask 2

Acorn employees put best foot forward for charities

You may remember a few weeks ago that we ran a guest blog by our Commercial Manager Sian Stone on her marathon effort to raise funds to tackle the asbestos-related cancer mesothelioma. Sian set herself the target of raising £200 by running at least 50 miles – or the length of nearly two marathons – …

Read MoreAcorn employees put best foot forward for charities

Rare disease day

Why Rare Diseases Day should be important to everyone

This Sunday, campaigners from around the world will unite their voices under the banner of the 14th annual Rare Diseases Day. This international event is coordinated by Eurordis – the voice of rare disease patients in Europe – every 28 February to raise awareness amongst the public and decisionmakers about rare diseases and their impact …

Read MoreWhy Rare Diseases Day should be important to everyone

Acorn Analytical Services Asbestos Solutions commecial photography 17

Tragic case reveals another dangerous aspect of asbestos

This month the dangers of asbestos hit the headlines once more but maybe not for the reason you might expect. Anyone who regularly follows our blogs or listens to our podcasts will know how hard we work to raise awareness about the dangers of asbestos-related diseases. Sadly, a case which came to court recently showed …

Read MoreTragic case reveals another dangerous aspect of asbestos