The Pros and Cons of Asbestos Usage

It seems that lately all news regarding asbestos usage is negative. It causes lung cancer and mesothelioma, and it has been linked to a number of other cancers and health risks. However, many people do not realize that asbestos is still used today because it has many positive characteristics in the construction world.

Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that comes in six different forms, divided into two families. The serpentine family contains chrysotile, and the amphibole group has the other five types: tremolite, actinolite, anthophyllite, amosite, and crocidolite. The main characteristic of asbestos is that it is occurs in bundles of fibers that can easily be sheared into smaller threads that have high length to diameter ratios. Additionally, asbestos has high tensile strength and are flexible enough to be spun into cloth or mats of fiber. Lastly, they look like the protein cellulose, which is a major component of plant structure.

As a silicate mineral, asbestos has several major qualities which make it extremely useful in construction and other industries. Silicates tend to be flame retardant, resistant towards chemical action, insulating towards electricity, thermally unaffected, and not easily biodegraded. Thus, it plays a major role in several industries.

The serpentine family of asbestos includes chrysotile, which is the most commonly used form of the mineral. Serpentine asbestos is used in building materials such as drywall, plaster, vinyl flooring, shingles, roofing tiles, counter tops, pipe, fireproofing, and caulk. It is also utilized in the automotive industry in things such as brake pads, gaskets, and clutch plates. Chrysotile is a component in firefighter’s gear as well, in things such as fire blankets and clothing. As you can see, including chrysotile fibers in material is a huge advantage because of its fire retardant properties.

Amphibole-type asbestos is slightly less common than chrysotile, but it is now mostly banned. It was commonly used in insulated ceiling tiles, pipes, asbestos-cement sheets, and thermal and chemical insulating materials.

Asbestos, despite all of its good qualities, also has some very negative side effects. A specific type of lung cancer, called mesothelioma, is caused by asbestos. Regular lung cancer can be a sign of asbestos poisoning as well. Additionally, asbestos exposure has been linked to other cancers including gastrointestinal, colorectal, throat, and esophageal. Lastly, this silicate mineral can cause other problems including asbestos warts, pleural plaques in the lungs, and diffuse pleural thickening.

Because of the many cons related to asbestos and your health, it is now banned from multiple uses. However, because of its pros, there are still industries that utilize asbestos as long as it is treated to prevent it from flaking into people’s lungs and causing disease.

If you or someone you know has developed mesothelioma as a result of unsafe asbestos, you may be entitled to financial compensation. For more information regarding this deadly disease, check out the law firm of Williams Kherkher today.