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About Asbestos and the dangers


Asbestos, which is taken from the Greek language for “not quenchable”, is the name given to a group of 6 fibrous mineral silicates found naturally in many parts of the world, which is formed over millions of years by crystallisation under the influence of volcanic explosion. The basic six types fall into two classes of asbestos minerals and they are as follows

i.)         SERPENTINE

The serpentine class is where the polymeric form is an extended sheet, wrapped around itself that is usually curved (serpentine). The only member of this group is Chrysotile, which is more commonly known as white asbestos. This asbestos type is a magnesia based silicate.

ii.)        AMPHIBOLE

The amphibole class consists of a polymeric structure of the silicates silicon-oxygen bonds forming long, thin straight fibres. This asbestos type is an iron based silicate.

Members of this group are:-

                        (a) Amosite, commonly known as Brown asbestos
                        (b) Crocidolite, commonly known as Blue asbestos
                        (c) Anthophyllite
                        (d) Tremolite
                        (e) Actinolite

Chrysotile (white), Amosite (brown) and Crocidolite (blue) asbestos was widely used within the UK for various applications within the construction or refurbishment of offices, factories and even domestic premises. As well as being used within the fabric of a building or plant therein (boilers etc); it was also used within services and consumer goods.

The main usage or purpose of asbestos has been for thermal and acoustic insulation,fire resistance and as a fibrous strengthening agent within other products. It is quite often mixed with other materials to act as a matrix, but also can be encountered in “raw” form as a sprayed coating (limpet/flock).

The latter is usually blue or brown asbestos and used as fire protection on steelwork and concrete.

As part of a bonded product it is not usually hazardous unless damaged, interfered with, worked upon or manipulated in some way, whereupon asbestos fibres may be released into the atmosphere.

Where the content of asbestos is not known by analysis or survey and there is insufficient evidence in order to assess the type of ACM (asbestos containing material), then it will be treated as other than Chrysotile alone.

Legislation

There is a great deal of legislation applicable to asbestos removal. It comprises various acts, regulations, approved codes of practice, and guidance notes. The rules for employees in no way supersede this legislation but have taken into account their requirements.

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