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How dangerous is white asbestos?

“Asbestos” is a term that is used commercially to describe the fibrous form that certain minerals sometimes naturally take. It’s not actually a single mineral. And as a result, it doesn’t always look the same. Asbestos can be white, brown, blue, gray or dull green depending on the material it’s made of. Historically, these forms were sometimes used in different applications. But in terms of their danger to the people exposed to them, there’s not very much difference.

White asbestos is officially known as chrysotile. It’s found in the roof and wall insulation of many buildings. This type of asbestos is by far the most common and is also found in old pipes and ducts, car parts and other commercial uses. So how does it compare to the other kind? Chrysotile is the only type of asbestos classified as “serpentine”: its fibers take a curvy form. This contrasts with amphibole asbestos, whose fibers are needle-like.

How dangerous is white asbestos?

Some evidence exists that amphibole asbestos is more highly carcinogenic, because the needle-shaped fibers have greater ability to damage cells. Research on this has been limited, since government bodies such as the EPA are more concerned with the overall danger posed by asbestos than with differentiating types. Given that all asbestos exposure is known to carry significant risk of mesothelioma, asbestos lung cancer and asbestosis, white asbestos should be classed with its colorful peers as extremely dangerous.

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