Asbestos, Its History, Properties, Industrial Applications
History, Manufacture &
Identification of Asbestos
ASBESTOS ORIGIN & NATURE - CONTENTS: History of the manufacture & use of asbestos-containing products. Properties of asbestos and asbestos-containing products. What is asbestos, where does it originate, what is the history of asbestos use, mining, & products?
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Asbestos: what is asbestos, where does it originate, how has it been mined & used to manufacture products from ancient to modern times.
Where has asbestos been mined around the world, where are the principal asbestos deposits?
How is asbestos graded or classified - fiber lengths. Asbestos health issues ca 1959. Where do asbestos reserves remain? What are the principal product groups that used asbestos? This chapter forms the introduction to Rosato's Asbestos, its Industrial Applications (1959) .
This articles series about the manufacture & use of asbestos-containing products includes detailed information on the production methods, asbestos content, and the identity and use of asbestos-containing materials.
Asbestos Sources, Origins, Uses, History & Contemporary Asbestos Concerns
In the more than half a centruy since Rosato published his enthsiastic little red book about asbestos this natural mineral has experienced a turbulent history that included valuable uses across thousands of products around the world and ultimately high costs of personal illness and asbestos cleanup projects. Asbestos remains in many products and buildings, in some cases in hazardous forms in other cases probably not.
[Click to enlarge any image]
That asbestos remains a controversial material was evident in a New York Times article reported in February 2015. There the Times reported
Asbestos occurs naturally in many parts of the country, mostly in the West but also along some mountain ranges n the East. But in Nevada, the scientists found, natural erosion and commercial development were sending these fibers into the wind. ... With data from Nevada's cancer registry, an epidemiologist prepared a preliminary report that outlining [sic] what she felt was a troubling pattern of mesothelioma - a cancer often related to asbestos exposure - among residents of the affected areas.
... Upon learning of the report, the Nevada Department of Health forced the epidemiologist, Francine Baumann of the University of Hawaii, to withdraw a presentation of the findings at a scientific conference and revoked her access to the state cancer registry. ... The department's own analysis has turned up no particular asbestos risks to residents, the officials say ...
In her original review of data from the state cancer registry, Dr. Baumann says she found an unusual number of mesothelioma cases in younger residents and in women in the affected areas. The disease usually occurs in older men, after years of on-the-job exposure. ... She submitted the abstract to the Geological Society of America and was to present it at the group's national meeting in 2012. ... the [Nevada] state health officer, Dr. Tracey Green, ... demanded that the abstract be taken off the website, and the presentation was cancelled.... She said it was necessary because Dr. Baumann ... [wanted to] publish a misguided study.
On [10 February 2015] Dr. Baumann and her colleagues, using cancer data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for confirmation, published a study in the Journal on Thoracic Oncology finding elevated rates of mesothelioma among adults under age 55 in southern Nevada and concluding that it may be linked to naturally occurring asbestos. Some of the cases were teenagers, the authors reported, and teh disease is occurring more frequently among women in southern Nevada than elsewhere. - Blum, Deborah, "A Controversy in the Wind: Scientists and state officials disagree over a natural asbestos risk in Nevada", The New York Times, 10 February 2015 p. D1, D4.
Also see ASBESTOS MINE LOCATIONS
D. V. Rosato,
Newton, Massachusetts (1959), edited, adapted, expanded (1985-2013)
This book discusses the many varied applications of asbestos.
Its purpose is to provide background as well as
factual information on the uses of asbestos. Asbestos is
utilized in a wide range of products, though its identity is
often obscured. The discussion in this book is primarily concerned
with the more familiar specialized products.
Asbestos can be classified both as an old product and as
a new one. History has justified its usefulness. The accelerated
pace at which technology is advancing in this atomic
and space age has created many new demands on basic
materials and the need for developing new and improved
products at a more rapid rate.
The technological advances in the use of asbestos have
produced some large and important industries. This does not
mean that asbestos will supplant other established materials,
any more than it can be expected that other products will
The possibility of new uses for asbestos
is far from exhausted. Because of such technical advances
and scientific research, diversified products have been developed.
Valuable new properties of asbestos have been
determined, which in turn account for its many new applications.
These, as well as improved products, are included in
Photo at left, Asbestos cement pipe.
(Courtesy Johns-Manville Corp.)
The increase in asbestos products in the past 2,000 years
has been a milestone in world growth. The atomic age has
been reached as a result of the achievements made in working
with such materials as asbestos. Asbestos used in conjunction
with new chemicals continues to make important contributions to industry. The combined effort of special
military agencies and industry has resulted in its continual
growth in diversified fields; ingenious methods have been
developed to utilize this material.
This book will serve as a guide to various branches of
industry—research and development groups, manufacturers,
educational institutions, market research groups, and sales
management. Its purpose is to better acquaint industry with
asbestos products in the fields of building materials, insulation, electrical units, chemical units, asbestos-cements, filters,
friction materials, packings, adhesives, lubricants, plastics,
machinery, paper, medicine, etc.
In order to do this, it is
necessary that a review be made of the types of materials
that are available, their properties, and the methods of
manufacturing them. Such a review will help the reader to
have a better understanding of the variables which exist in
working with this material. In most applications, where
asbestos is used, the products are superior to other materials.
This book is designed to present the various industrial
applications, and an over-all view of the methods of fabrication. It is hoped that this book will stimulate further re-
search in the use of asbestos, particularly more fundamental
Material has been derived from many sources. The data
are based on observation and published references. The
author wishes to thank the many companies that have contributed to the preparation of this volume.
- D.V. Rosato, Newton Mass, May, 1959 [edited, expanded, illustrated, D J Friedman 1985 - 2013]
The Origin and Nature of Asbestos
Asbestos is the name given to the serpentine and amphibole
groups of fibrous inorganic minerals that occur in different
forms and in different parts of the world. The most important
group is chrysotile which represents approximately 95
per cent of the total world production of all asbestos.
most important deposits are in Canada. Asbestos has been
recorded in literature from the days of the Romans, but it
was not mined and used in large quantities until the deposits
in Canada were made available in 1878. Canada produces
approximately 60 per cent of the world's asbestos with
95 per cent being of the chrysotile type.
Geologists refer to asbestos as material transformed from
special rocks (serpentine), twisted and squeezed by prehistoric
volcanoes millions of years ago. Masses of molten
rock passed through the earth's crust; mineral-rich ocean
waters rushed through the cracks and crevices. As the
earth's internal heat and pressure developed, these openings
filled up with crystals developed from the passing water.
The asbestos filled cracks and crevices are referred to as
veins in the rock. These veins sometimes occur on the surface
of the earth. But more frequently, they are deep in the
ground. Asbestos is obtained from surface or tunnel mining.
After it has been mined, the tightly packed asbestos fibers
go td mills where they are fiberized and cleaned.
Chrysotile is a serpentine mineral and the most important
form of asbestos. Its formula is 3MgO.2SiO2.2H20. Its main
chemical compositions are Si02 and MgO. Other compositions
of asbestos include 1120, FcO, Fe 2 0 and Al23.
Asbestos is a mineral; however, it can be separated into
the finest man made or natural flexible fiber. Single fiber
diameters can be obtained as fine as 0.0000007 in. It will not
burn or rot; it resists heat and chemicals.
Shown at left, asbestos ore. Rosato (1959)
Because it combines
these properties with other advantageous properties,
asbestos is now an important industrial product for both
regular and specialized products, the manufacture of which
constitutes a vast industry. In most cases, asbestos loses its
identity in the finished product; in more than 95 per cent
of its applications, it is combined with other products to
produce such items as tile, gaskets, plastics, cements, and
The [asbestos] fiber-bearing rocks contain [asbestos] fibers of various lengths.
The shorter fibers are more abundant; they are used in
the largest single asbestos industry; i.e., for such asbestoscement
products as siding shingles, fiat sheets, roofing
shingles and corrugated sheets.
The longer asbestos fibers are used
primarily in the manufacture of such textile products as
yarn, cloth, tape, felt and lap. These constitute the second
largest use for asbestos. The principal method of obtaining
asbestos for the textile industry involves hand picking operations
at the mine. However, special fiberizing processes at
the textile mill are of prime importance in the manufacture
of the end products.
Origin of Asbestos
One of the theories of the formation of asbestos involves
the result of volcanic activity which occurred many hundreds
of thousands of years ago. The igneous rocks had
acidic inclusions that formed granites and feldspar dikes.
The basic inclusions formed dunite which eventually formed
peridotite and pyroxene peridotite after coming in contact
with olivine and oxides.
Through the ages, these rocks
passed through various stages of physical and chemical
changes and formed minerals known as serpentine. This
change occurred when high pressure caused cracks in the
rock. In turn, these cracks were filled with hot ground waters
derived from the infiltration of rain or surface waters. The
continued infiltration of this water under heat and pressure
caused the water to become contaminated with various minerals.
Crystals developed and were deposited in the cracks.
The rock formation in Canada is a variety of olivine
which is composed of iron, magnesia, and silicate. Water
containing carbon dioxide and salt in solution penetrated
the rocks. This gradual flow of highly contaminated water
changed the original rock from an iron-containing mineral
to a magnesia-silica-iron solution. According to the geologist,
this reaction took place thousands of feet below present
It is believed that asbestos developed deep within the
earth where conditions of high pressure and heat existed.
Since in the case of the North American Continent asbestos
is found on the surface, it is assumed that the glaciers or
massive ice formations removed the overburden of earth.
The importance and commercial value of asbestos is attributed
both to its incombustibility and to its unique
structure. It is fibrous, having been created by a natural
process which man has not been able to reproduce. In a
sense, it is a mineral silk, un-decayed and unaltered by time
Asbestos is an enemy of heat, flame, chemicals and
acids. In addition, it is resistant to moisture and corrosion.
Asbestos fibers can be individually fiberized and handled in
a manner similar to such fibers as those of animal origin
( wool and silk) and those of vegetable origin (cotton and
flax). To the physicists and scientists, asbestos is of especial
interest, inasmuch as it is both fibrous and crystalline.
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 Asbestos, its Industrial Applications, D.V. Rosato, engineering consultant, Newton MA, Reinhold Publishing Co., NY, 1959, Library of Congress Catalog No. 59-12535. We are in process of re-publishing this interesting text. Excerpts & adaptations are found in InspectApedia.com articles on asbestos history, production & visual identification in and on buildings.
 "Asbestos in Plastic Compositions", A.B. Cummins, Modern Plastics [un-dated, pre 1952]
 "Asbestos in Your Home," Spokane County Air Pollution Control Authority, Spokane WA 509-477-4727 www.scapa.org provides a one-page image, a .pdf file drawing of a house warning of some possible sources of asbestos in the home. The sources are not ranked according to actual risk of releasing hazardous levels of airborne asbestos fibers and the list is useful but incomplete.
 The US EPA provides a sample list of asbestos containing products epa.gov/earth1r6/6pd/asbestos/asbmatl.htm
 "Characterization of asbestos exposure among
automotive mechanics servicing and handling
asbestos-containing materials", Gary Scott Dotson, University of South Florida, 1 June 2006, web search 3/9/2012 original source: scholarcommons.usf.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=3505&context=etd [copy on file as /hazmat/Automotive_Asbestos_Exposuret.pdf ].
 Asbestos Identification and Testing References
Asbestos Identification, Walter C.McCrone, McCrone Research Institute, Chicago, IL.1987 ISBN 0-904962-11-3. Dr. McCrone literally "wrote the book" on asbestos identification procedures which formed
the basis for current work by asbestos identification laboratories.
Stanton, .F., et al., National Bureau of Standards Special Publication 506: 143-151
Pott, F., Staub-Reinhalf Luft 38, 486-490 (1978) cited by McCrone
 Asbestos in Your Home U.S. EPA, Exposure Evaluation Division, Office of Toxic Substances, Office of Pesticides and Toxic Substances, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington,D.C. 20460
 Asbestos products and their history and use in various building materials such as asphalt and vinyl flooring includes discussion which draws on Asbestos, Its Industrial Applications, D.V. Rosato, engineering consultant, Newton, MA, Reinhold Publishing, 1959 Library of Congress Catalog Card No.: 59-12535 (out of print, text and images available at InspectAPedia.com).
 "Handling Asbestos-Containing roofing material - an update", Carl Good, NRCA Associate Executive Director, Professional Roofing, February 1992, p. 38-43
 EPA Guidance for Controlling Asbestos-Containing Materials in buildings, NIAST, National Institute on Abatement Sciences & Technology, [republishing EPA public documents] 1985 ed., Exposure Evaluation Division, Office of Toxic Substances, Office of Pesticides and Toxic Substances, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington,D.C. 20460 Copy on file as - /hazmat/Asbestos_in_Your_Home_US_EPA.pdf - Asbestos in Your Home - U.S. EPA, Exposure Evaluation Division, Office of Toxic Substances, Office of Pesticides and Toxic Substances, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington,D.C. 20460
Basic Information about Asbestos, US EPA, web search 08/17/2010, original source: http://www.epa.gov/asbestos/pubs/help.html
"Handling Asbestos-Containing roofing material - an update", Carl Good, NRCA Associate Executive Director, Professional Roofing, February 1992, p. 38-43
EPA Guidance for Controlling Asbestos-Containing Materials in buildings, NIAST, National Institute on Abatement Sciences & Technology, [republishing EPA public documents] 1985 ed., Exposure Evaluation Division, Office of Toxic Substances, Office of Pesticides and Toxic Substances, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington,D.C. 20460
Copy on file as - /hazmat/Asbestos_in_Your_Home_US_EPA.pdf - Asbestos in Your Home - U.S. EPA, Exposure Evaluation Division, Office of Toxic Substances, Office of Pesticides and Toxic Substances, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington,D.C. 20460
[copy on file as /hazmat/Vermiculite_US_EPA.pdf/ Current Best Practices for Vermiculite Attic Insulation - May 2003, U.S. EPA
[copy on file as] /hazmat/Vermiculite_Health_Canada.pdf] Vermiculite Insulation Containing Amphibole Asbestos - September 2009, Health Canada
Managing Asbestos in Place, How to Develop and Maintain a Building Asbestos Operations and Maintenance (O&M) Program, U.S. EPA, web search 01/20/2011, original source: http://www.epa.gov/asbestos/pubs/management_in_place.html
Asbestos Strategies, Lessons Learned about Management and Use of Asbestos: Report of Findings and Recommendations on the Use and Management of Asbestos, 16 May 2003, US EPA, web search 01/20/2011, original source: http://www.epa.gov/asbestos/pubs/asbstrategiesrptgetf.pdf
prepared by the: Global Environment & Technology Foundation, 7010 Little River Turnpike, Suite. 460, Annandale VA 20003
Other US EPA Publications on asbestos: web search 01/20/2011, see http://www.epa.gov/asbestos/pubs/pubs.html
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The Home Reference Book - the Encyclopedia of Homes, Carson Dunlop & Associates, Toronto, Ontario, 25th Ed., 2012, is a bound volume of more than 450 illustrated pages that assist home inspectors and home owners in the inspection and detection of problems on buildings. The text is intended as a reference guide to help building owners operate and maintain their home effectively. Field inspection worksheets are included at the back of the volume.
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