What Is Asbestos Made Of?

Although many people are aware that asbestos is dangerous and is often found in buildings, they don’t always realise exactly what it is. In fact, many people assume that asbestos is a man-made material. However, asbestos is actually a natural mineral that’s found in rock formations all over the world. It consists of fibrous crystals that form in strands, with each one being made up of microscopic fibrils.

How Was Asbestos Used?

The physical properties of asbestos mean that it has had many different types of commercial uses. Its resistance to heat resulted in it being used in fireproofing, for example, which is why many fire doors and fire-resistant partition walls contained asbestos.

As well as being heat-resistant, asbestos was also extremely durable and relatively low-cost, which made it a popular choice of material in the building trade. Pipes, gutters, roof tiles, and cement were often made with asbestos because of the benefits it offered.

In addition to this, asbestos is a highly effective electrical insulator, which resulted in it being used in electrical wires and related products. However, the use of asbestos didn’t stop there. It was also incorporated into the production of vinyl tiles, textiles, and used as a spray-on insulator or as loose-fill insulation in buildings.

How Was Asbestos Manufactured?

Although asbestos had many uses, it couldn’t be used in its natural form. Instead, it was mined and separated from rock, so that it could be processed into a usable format. Once the asbestos fibres had been freed from the rock upon which it formed, it could be formed into sheets and/or mixed with other materials.

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When mixed with cement, for example, it could be formed into pipes and gutters for use on the exterior of buildings. Alternatively, asbestos could be mixed with paper to create air-cell insulation for pipes or woven into the fabric of insulation ‘jackets’ for pipes and tanks.

Is Asbestos Still Used Today?

Despite its useful physical properties, asbestos is no longer used in many parts of the world due to its health hazards. Since 1999, the use of all types of asbestos has been banned in the UK. However, most buildings that were constructed before 2000 still contain some form of asbestos. Due to this, property owners or potential buyers should assess buildings to determine whether asbestos is present and, if so, whether it should be professionally removed.