Asbestos is the name of a group of highly fibrous minerals with separable, long, and thin fibers. Separated asbestos fibers are strong enough and flexible enough to be spun and woven. Asbestos fibers are heat resistant, making them useful for many industrial purposes. Because of their durability, asbestos fibers that get into lung tissue will remain for long periods of time.
For more information on asbestos, see ATSDR’s Toxicological Profile on Asbestos. Other ATSDR resources include the Public Health Statement on Asbestos, which is the summary chapter from the Toxicological Profile, and the ToxFAQs for Asbestos, which is a shorter question and answer version.
Types of Asbestos
There are two general types of asbestos, amphibole and chrysotile. Some studies show that amphibole fibers stay in the lungs longer than chrysotile, and this tendency may account for their increased toxicity (harmfulness to the body).
Regulatory agencies such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recognize six asbestos minerals: chrysotile, a serpentine mineral with long and flexible fibers; and five amphibole (with relatively brittle crystalline fibers) minerals, actinolite asbestos, tremolite asbestos, anthophyllite asbestos, crocidolite asbestos, and amosite asbestos.
How Are People Exposed to Asbestos
We are all exposed to low levels of asbestos in the air. These “ambient” – or typical – air concentrations of asbestos fibers are 0.00001 to 0.0001 fibers per milliliter (fiber/mL). Much more concentrated levels of exposure are known to cause health effects in humans. For more information on asbestos exposure, see the………..