As the most common type, chrysotile asbestos – also known as white asbestos – is accounted for over 90% of the total asbestos consumption in the U.S. during the past century. It is also the only form of asbestos used nowadays by the few companies which still manufacture asbestos-containing products. Chrysotile fibers are long, curly, and white, and also more flexible than those of the amphibole asbestos group.
Because it is significantly less friable than the other asbestos types, some argue that chrysotile is less likely to be inhaled. It is also believed that it takes a longer duration of exposure to this mineral for people to develop a disease. Nevertheless, exposure to chrysotile asbestos is responsible for approximately 75% of asbestos-related cancer cases.
Due to the fact that chrysotile asbestos was so widespread before the 1980s, it is currently present in 95% of old buildings. The hardness of naturally occurring chrysotile asbestos fibers is similar to that of a human fingernail and their length ranges from several millimeters to over ten centimeters. Each bundle is made up of tens or hundreds of fibers. Chrysotile asbestos has a remarkable tensile strength and because fibers are very flexible, they would often be woven into textiles. It also has excellent electrical, acoustic, and thermal insulating properties.
The Most Common Uses of Chrysotile Asbestos
By virtue of its physical properties, chrysotile asbestos was present in the majority of asbestos-containing products which had been manufactured in the U.S. since the 1930s. However, the most common chrysotile asbestos uses include:
- corrugated asbestos cement roofing
- ceiling and floor tiles
- acoustic plaster
- joint compound
- fire barriers in fuseboxes
- pipe insulation
- brake linings
- boiler seals
Nowadays, chrysotile asbestos is involved preponderantly in roofing materials, which are non-friable and dense, thereby entailing a lower risk of exposure. In such building products, chrysotile asbestos fibers are safely encapsulated in resin or cement. This prevents them from coming off and being subsequently inhaled by nearby people.
Over time, however, non-friable asbestos building materials age and become brittle, which increases the risk of exposure considerably. It is highly advisable to have old products professionally removed from your home by a certified asbestos abatement company to ensure a clean environment for you and your family. You can find a list of asbestos removal companies at the end of our free, downloadable guide.
Finding out whether a product you intent to purchase contains asbestos is very simple: all you have to do is consult the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS), where asbestos will be listed if it is present in the item in question. It is very important to keep in mind that if you develop a disease after exposure to an asbestos product you knowingly bought, you will not be eligible for financial compensation. This is another reason why you should think twice before choosing asbestos-containing products.
Although asbestos-containing roofing products in good condition do not entail a high risk of exposure, we suggest you opt for safer alternatives so that you will never have to worry in this respect. Some great, accessible substitutes for asbestos cement corrugated roofing are:
- galvanized metal sheets
- vegetable fibers in asphalt
- aluminum roof tiles (Dekra Tile)
- plastic coated galvanized steel
- recycled polypropylene and high-density polyethylene and crushed stone (Worldroof)
- clay tiles
- fiber-cement roofing containing cellulose fibers or synthetic fibers
- coated metal tiles (Harveytile)