Asbestos Mineral

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What is an Asbestos Mineral?

The asbestos mineral is a naturally occurring silicate mineral that is a type of fibrous silicate. These fibrous minerals are composed of thin fibre crystal. Each fibre is composed of a sub smaller unit known as fibrils. These fibrils can be released into the atmosphere by the erosion process like abrasion. These minerals are also called silica asbestos or asbestos silicate as they are made up of silicate units.

Asbestos Rock

As we know asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral, there are three main types of rock in which asbestos is found naturally. Therefore, these rocks are also called asbestos rock. These three main types of natural asbestos rock are:

  • Serpentine asbestos mineral

  • Amphibole

  • some mafic rocks. 

1. Serpentine Asbestos Mineral

It is white in colour. The serpentine asbestos mineral is also known as chrysotile.

2. Amphibole 

It includes actinolite asbestos rock, amosite asbestos rock (brown in colour), anthophyllite, crocidolite also known as a blue asbestos rock (blue in colour), and tremolite.

Other than the above-mentioned rocks, some other rocks are also present in the natural environment in which little amount of asbestos is found. These types of rock include metamorphosed dolostones, metamorphosed iron formations, carbonatites, and alkalic intrusions. Faulting and fracturing of these rocks Contribute to the formation of asbestos. These changes in the natural environment take place due to the increased temperatures, pressures, and the presence of water. The number of asbestiform minerals and asbestos in these rocks can range in size from commercial-grade ore bodies to thin impure veinlets or low-grade occurrences.

Asbestos can be released from these rocks to the atmosphere by the erosion process like rocks broken or crushed. Asbestos can also be released from asbestos-containing soils by stirring up. 

Asbestos Mining

In India, there are more than thirty asbestos mining sites or mines that are in operation that produces around 2800 tones of asbestos silicate mineral per month. The main form of asbestos minerals produced from mining include; chrysotile and tremolite. In recent years a major quantity is imported from Canada that is around 70%. The quality of asbestos silicate minerals produced in India is very poor. Mining and milling and other related processes expose people to dreadful diseases like cancer and related diseases.

Asbestos Ore

The important asbestos ore:  

  • Asbestos Chrysotile

  • Asbestos Amosite

  • Asbestos Crocidolite

  • Asbestos Tremolite

  • Asbestos Actinolite

  • Asbestos Anthophyllite. 

Asbestos Mineral Uses

  • Asbestos is used in making the Chlor alkali diaphragm membrane. 

  • It is used in making protective and decorative coating on the walls.

  • It is used in making fire blankets.

  • It is used in making stage curtains.

  • Asbestos is present in dental cast lining.

  • It is used in floor tiles.

  • It is used in cement building material.

  • It is used for making insulating mattresses and rope.

  • It is used in sprayed fire-proofing products.

  • It is used in making water and sewage pipes.

  • It is used in boilers.

  • It is used as an insulating material.

What are Asbestos-Related Problems?

Naturally occurring asbestos is not a health problem; it will cause problems only when it gets disturbed. Asbestos is composed of long silica fibres that are invisible to the naked eye. If asbestos mineral fibres are present in the air you breathe, you might inhale the asbestos fibres by your nose which can transfer to your lungs. Inhaling the fibres inside the body is the primary way to get exposed to the asbestos mineral. People living in a naturally occurring asbestos mineral area have a slight risk of asbestos-related disease. The chances of developing an asbestos-related disease vary from person to person. It depends upon the immunity of the person, a dose of the consumed asbestos mineral fibres, and the duration of the exposure. The number of fibres that have been breathed in and for how long, and fibre type alters the asbestos-related disease in a different person. 

Some people can also be exposed to higher levels of asbestos at some times in their lives; for example in their workplace, community or home. Workers that work in the mines have also been known to develop asbestos-related diseases. These workers carry asbestos fibres home on their clothing, skin and hair. Asbestos can cause problems like:

  • It can develop pleural plaque.

  • It can cause chronic lung disease.

  • Asbestos can cause lung cancer.

  • It is responsible for causing mesothelioma.  

Did You Know?

  • Asbestos was nicknamed "the magic mineral".

  • Asbestos occurs in some soils.

  • Asbestos is not considered a toxic mineral until it is left disturbed.

  • NOA is called naturally occurring Asbestos.

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

Question: What is NOA?

Answer: Asbestos is a name given to a group of naturally occurring fibrous silicate minerals. These minerals are found in rock, sediment, or soil. The term NOA distinguishes these natural occurrences from manufactured products that contain asbestos. Asbestos minerals are found around the world. It is found in certain types of rock, these rocks include serpentinite (chrysotile [white]) and amphibole (actinolite, amosite [brown], anthophyllite, crocidolite [blue] and tremolite) as well as in the soils formed from these rock types.

Question: What are the Problems related to Asbestos?

Answer: Some asbestos-related problems are listed below:

  • It can develop fibrous thickening around the pleural membrane of the lungs.

  • It can cause chronic (slow damaging) lung disease.

  • The asbestos mineral causes lung tumours.

  • It is responsible for causing tissue cancer (mesothelioma).