Fibrous asbestos on muscovite
is a naturally occurring silicate
mineral with long, thin fibrous crystals. The
word asbestos (ασβεστος) is derived from a
Greek adjective meaning inextinguishable.
The Greeks termed asbestos the miracle min-
eral because of its soft and pliant properties,
as well as its ability to withstand heat.
Asbestos is toxic. The inhalation of asbes-
tos fibers can cause serious illnesses, includ-
ing malignant mesothelioma, lung cancer,
and asbestosis (a type of pneumoconiosis).
Since the mid 1980s, many uses of asbestos
have been banned in several countries.
Blue asbestos (crocidolite) from Wittenoom,
Western Australia. The ruler is 1 cm.
Blue asbestos showing the fibrous nature of
Asbestos became increasingly popular
among manufacturers and builders in the late
19th century because of its resistance to
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heat, electricity and chemical damage, its
sound absorption and tensile strength. When
asbestos is used for its resistance to fire or
heat, the fibers are often mixed with cement
or woven into fabric or mats. Asbestos was
used in some products for its heat resistance,
and in the past was used on electric oven and
hotplate wiring for its electrical insulation at
elevated temperature, and in buildings for its
flame-retardant and insulating properties,
tensile strength, flexibility, and resistance to
Types and associated
Six minerals are defined as "asbestos" includ-
tremolite, anthophyllite and actinolite.
Chrysotile, CAS No. 12001-29-5, is obtained
from serpentine rocks which are common
throughout the world. Its idealized chemical
fibers are curly as opposed to fibers from
amosite, crocidolite, tremolite, actinolite, and
anthophyllite which are needlelike. Chryso-
tile, along with other types of asbestos, has
been banned in dozens of countries and is