White asbestos fibres resist heat and fire more than any other asbestos type and are the softest fibres, making them the most easily woven. As a result, white asbestos was the most commonly used form of asbestos in a wide variety of household, industrial and commercial products.
Asbestos is a naturally occurring fibrous mineral with heat-resistant properties that people have taken advantage of since Roman times. According to the International Ban Asbestos Sectretariat, chrysotile, or white asbestos, has long, curly fibres that resist acid in addition to heat. The Asbestos Awareness Center indicates that the main countries mining chrysotile include Canada, Russia and Italy.
Historical Uses for Chrysotile
According to Chrysotile.com, chrysotile asbestos has been used for more than 2,000 years, with ancient peoples using it for burial cloths, wicks for oil lamps and in other forms of cloth. In 1904, production of sheets of cement containing chrysotile began, and during World War II manufacturers began using chrysotile asbestos along with the other forms in insulating materials for brake pads, spray coatings and various types of automobile gaskets. The Mesothelioma Law Center says its use expanded to include ironing board covers, hot mitts, hair dryer insulation and even cigarettes.
Mining companies argue that the body can clear chrysotile asbestos fibres from the lungs and that as a result, chrysotile asbestos poses no health risk. In a paper titled "Undeniable Facts about Chrysotile," its proponents claim that not only does chrysotile have less risk than other forms of asbestos, but also that at low exposure levels, it produces no risk at all. Doctors and scientists counter with the statement that all forms of asbestos cause cancer. According to Mesothelioma.com, a site about asbestos-related cancers, doctors say no amount of asbestos of any form is safe. In 2007 Occupation and Environmental Medicine published a follow-up study of chrysotile asbestos textile workers in South Carolina. The doctors and researchers concluded that the study confirmed the findings from previous investigations of increased risk of death from lung cancer and asbestosis and a strong correlation between exposure to chrysotile and mortality from lung cancer and asbestosis.
Removal of Chrysotile
Since the late 1990s chrysotile manufacturers have learnt to use chrysotile in such a way that it does not crumble or create dust. The Natural Handyman points out that even the Environmental Protection Agency and the Occupational Safety and Health Association only consider asbestos dangerous when airborne. Thus, encapsulated asbestos is not dangerous and does not require removal.
Where asbestos must be removed, however, a professional must do the job. Do-it-yourself asbestos removal is a bad idea as well as illegal.
Laws Involving Chrysotile
Laws in the United States do not distinguish among the types of asbestos. In the 1970s, the Consumer Product Safety Commission banned asbestos for use in compounds used to patch walls. Hair dryer manufacturers voluntarily removed asbestos from their products during the 1970s as well. In 1989, the Environmental Protection Agency banned asbestos use in new products. Although several legislators have introduced legislation that would completely ban asbestos in the United States, as of 2010 no such complete ban has passed.
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- International Ban Asbestos Secretariat: Asbestos Properties, Uses and Problems
- Asbestos Awareness Center: Chrysotile
- Chrysotile.com: Undeniable Facts About Chrysotile
- Occupational and Environmental Medicine: Follow-up Study on Chrysotile Textile Workers
- Natural Handyman: Asbestos on the Chopping Block