Asbestos is a mineral that is mined in much the same way that other minerals, such as iron, lead, and copper, are. There are many types of asbestos: the three most common are chrysotile, amosite, and crocidolite.
Asbestos has been so widely used in the past because few other substances combine the same qualities. It’s strong yet flexible, resists corrosion, and it will not burn. It is also a very effective insulator.
Unlike most minerals, which turn into dust particles when crushed, asbestos breaks up into fine fibers that are too small to be seen by the human eye. Often individual fibers are mixed with a material that binds them together.
Asbestos was first used in the United States in the early 1900’s, but was not used extensively until the 1940’s. After World War II, and for the next thirty years, asbestos was used a great deal by people who constructed and renovated schools and other public. Asbestos was used primarily to fireproof, insulate, soundproof, and decorate. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that there are asbestos containing materials in most of the nation’s 107,000 schools and 733,000 public and commercial buildings.
Asbestos can be found in many older, paper products, plastics, floor tiles, brake linings, and textile products as well as products such as sealants, cement pipe, cement sheets, and insulation. Most asbestos products are banned from being manufactured, processed and imported in the United States.