What Type of Asbestos Is Found in Thermal Insulation?

Thermal insulation is commonly used in buildings to maintain a stable temperature. By adding insulation, builders and contractors can ensure that a structure doesn’t lose or gain an excessive amount of heat. The insulation in your home prevents it from getting too hot in the summer, for example, and helps to keep it warm during the colder months.

Today, mineral wool, fibreglass, polystyrene, cellulose, and polyurethane foam are commonly used as thermal insulators in the UK. At one time, however, asbestos was the most popular choice when it came to insulating properties.

What Is Asbestos Insulation?

Asbestos was used in a similar way to today’s thermal insulators. Loose-fill asbestos was often pumped into cavity walls and attic spaces to increase the thermal efficiency of a property, for example. Alternatively, asbestos was mixed with spray-on materials to create an insulator that could simply be sprayed onto walls or ceilings. In addition to this, asbestos insulation boards were often used as internal-facing walls.

How Many Types of Asbestos Are There?

There are actually numerous different types of asbestos, including:

  • Chrysotile (white asbestos)
  • Crocidolite (blue asbestos)
  • Amosite (brown asbestos)
  • Anthophyllite
  • Tremolite
  • Actinolite

All types of asbestos are good insulators, but it was chrysotile that was most commonly used commercially. This means that the majority of asbestos used as thermal insulation was white asbestos, although blue and brown asbestos were sometimes used as well – or used in conjunction with chrysotile.

Although blue asbestos was frequently used to insulate steam engines, it was used less often as thermal insulation in building structures. Brown asbestos, or amosite, was often used to manufacture sheet insulation or pipe insulation, so it’s quite possible that many properties built before 1985 still contain this type of asbestos.

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How Many Common Types of Asbestos Were Available?

Is Asbestos Still Used in Thermal Insulation?

Although some countries continue to mine, manufacture, and use asbestos as thermal insulation, it is no longer used in the UK. As awareness of the health risks of asbestos grew, the use of the material became more problematic. Due to this, crocidolite and amosite were banned in the UK, with chrysotile also being banned in 1999.

While asbestos hasn’t been used in buildings constructed after 1999 in the UK, it is still present in buildings that were erected before this time. As a result, the vast majority of residential and commercial structures in the UK do still contain some type of asbestos thermal insulation.