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  • (chemistry) A naturally occurring fibrous mineral found in certain types of rock formations. The primary use of asbestos was as a fireproofing material, applied to structural steel members in multistory commercial buildings to attain proper fire protection. With its resistance to heat, asbestos was able to keep the building structure from bending and warping if exposed to fire. After widespread use of asbestos, over a 15 to 25 year time span, a pattern of illness gradually began to occur in asbestos workers. Three diseases linked to asbestos exposure are asbestosis, a fibrous scarring of the lungs, lung cancer, and mesothelioma, a cancer of the lining of the chest or abdominal cavity. [Indoor Air Quality; Hays, S. M., Gobbell, R. V., Ganick, N. R.; McGraw-Hill, New York, 1995.] Source: Atmospheric Chemistry Glossary
  • (environment) A mineral fiber that can pollute air or water and cause cancer or asbestosis when inhaled. EPA has banned or severely restricted its use in manufacturing and construction. Source: Terms of the Environment
  • (geology)
  1. A general term applied to certain fibrous minerals displaying similar physical characteristics although differing in composition. Some asbestos has fibers long enough to be spun into fabrics with great heat resistance, such as those for automobile brake linings. Types with shorter fibers are compressed into insulating boards, shingles, etc. Most common asbestos mineral (95 percent of United States production) is chrysotile, a variety of serpentine, a metamorphic mineral.
    Source: Leet, L. Don. 1982. Physical Geology, 6th Edition. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall
  2. A commercial term applied to silicate minerals that separate readily into thin, strong fibers that are flexible, heat resistant, and chemically inert, thus making them suitable for uses (as in yarn, cloth, paper, paint, brake linings, tiles, insulation, cement, fillers, and filters) where incombustible, nonconducting, or chemically resistant material is required. Since the early 1970's, there have been serious enviromental concerns about the potential health hazards of asbestos products, which has resulted in strong enviromental regulations.
  3. Any asbestiform mineral of the serpentine group (chrysotile, best adapted for spinning and the principal variety in commerce) or amphibole group (esp. actinolite, anthophyllite, gedrite, cummingtonite, grunerite, riebeckite, and tremolite).
  4. A term strictly applied to asbestiform actinolite. Syn: asbestus; amianthus; earth flax; mountain flax; rock wool.
    Source: Dictionary of Mining, Mineral, and Related Terms