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What is Chrysotile Asbestos?

Chrysolite is one of the main types of asbestos and accounts for around 90%+ of all asbestos in the UK. It is what we commonly recognise when we think of asbestos and has a characteristic chalky, and fibrous appearance and is prone to crumbling and creating the dangerous asbestos dust. Below, we explain in detail about the properties, appearance, uses, and dangers of Chrysolite Asbestos.

An Introduction to Chrysotile Asbestos 

Chrysotile asbestos is one of the easiest types of identify unless it is mixed in with other products like cement. In its base form, it has a white colour and is arranged in a series of small, curly fibres and has a layered structure.

It is considered a type of friable asbestos which means that it is far more likely to crumble and turn into asbestos dust. As a result, it is highly dangerous when in an unstable form such as damaged asbestos cement sheets as it is far easier to breath in the damaging fibrous dust.

The IRAC (International Agency for Research on Cancer) classes Chrysotile asbestos as a human carcinogen[1] and other organizations like the WHO (World Health Organisation) consider it to be a major potential health hazard[2] and have concentrated efforts on eliminating diseases related from the mineral. 

Quick Chrysotile Asbestos Facts

  • Chrysotile is the most common type of asbestos in the UK accounting for 90%+ of material.
  • It is also the type of asbestos that has been used the most commercially.
  • It is fibrous and crumbles easily to create asbestos dust.
  • Chrysolite is part of the Serpentine Group of minerals together with Antigorite and Lizardite.
  • It is completely banned in the UK as of 1999.
  • Although banned in the UK, it is widely used legally around the world.

Where is Chrysotile Asbestos Commonly Found?

As Chrysotile asbestos is the most common type, it was widely used throughout the UK until the 1999 ban – mainly in the construction and automotive industries. As a result, it found its way into many homes, garages, and outbuildings including in the following places/applications:

  • Roofs
  • Ceilings
  • Walls
  • Floors
  • Gaskets
  • Boiler seals
  • Pipe insulation
  • Construction materials

Because of its ability to be woven into sheets, Chrysotile was made into cement sheets, asphalt, roof sealants, textiles, rubber seals and more. It is more commonly associated with the automotive industry but had plenty of use for commercial and residential construction too.

Does Chrysotile Asbestos Cause Health Problems?

As we all know, asbestos can be incredibly damaging and cause various health issues and Chrysotile is not different. As a result of prolonged exposure and the breathing in of Chrysotile asbestos fibres, the following health problems can occur:

  • Mesothelioma (a type of lung, ovary, and larynx cancer).
  • Asbestosis (irreversible scarring of the lungs).
  • Pleural disease (a build up of excess fluid in your lungs).
  • General respiratory problems.

These potential health problems do not normally manifest immediately but can build up over time after repeat exposure to Chrysotile asbestos. At the most basic, it can cause respiratory problems such as a shortness of breath, to the extremes of mesothelioma which is a type of fatal lung cancer.

This article is part of the "kinds of asbestos" series. Learn more about AmositeCrocidoliteTremoliteAnthophyllite

References 

[1] – IARC Risk Assessment on the Status of Chrysotile Asbestos

[2] – WHO summary on Chrysotile Asbestos

The content on this page/article was last updated on the 21st August 2023 by our team and was reviewed and fact checked by William Wright, DipNEBOSH on the 5th December 2023.

William is a qualified health & safety consultant who holds NEBOSH & IOSH certifications.