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Asbestos in the United States: Occurrences, Use and Control
(Released April 2008)

  by Andreas Saldivar & Vicki Soto  


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Asbestos - the word itself connotes harm or danger. "Asbestos" is actually a collective term used to describe six naturally occurring fibrous minerals that have specific physical/chemical properties. These properties make them resistant to heat and acid and also give the material a high tensile strength, which makes it ideal for use in many industrial materials - everything from brake linings to building insulation.

Asbestos minerals fall into two mineralogical groups, the serpentines and the amphiboles. Chrysotile is the only member of the serpentine group. The remaining minerals, amosite (grunerite), crocidolite (riebeckite), anthophyllite, actinolite, and tremolite are all amphiboles.

Picture 1: Chrysotile, or white asbestos. Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
close-up of asbestos fibers

Special thanks to Maria Latyszewskyj, Head, Environment Canada Library, Downsview and Melissa Kane, National Resource Council librarian

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