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What Is Chrysotile Asbestos?

Legally Reviewed by Joseph P. Williams on June 27, 2024

Chrysotile asbestos (also known as white asbestos) is an extremely dangerous naturally occurring mineral and a known carcinogen, meaning it causes cancer. No amount of chrysotile asbestos is safe for human exposure.

The more you understand about asbestos and the risk of encountering asbestos in your day-to-day environment, the better you can protect yourself from dangerous exposure and serious related diseases, such as mesothelioma. Chrysotile asbestos is the most common variety of asbestos found in consumer products.

Types of Asbestos

Asbestos technically refers to a group of fibrous minerals, not just one. Scientists have grouped asbestos into six identified types and two asbestos families. The first family is the amphibole family, which has a sharp and straight fiber structure that is easily inhaled. The five types of asbestos that are in the amphibole family are:

  • Actinolite
  • Amosite
  • Anthophyllite
  • Crocidolite
  • Tremolite

Chrysotile asbestos, also known as white asbestos, is the only type of asbestos in the serpentine family. Serpentine asbestos consists of curly fibers and a layered structure. It is the most commonly used and most commercialized type of asbestos, making up an estimated 90 to 95 percent of all asbestos still found in the U.S. Before the use of asbestos was regulated, it became popular among manufacturers due to its versatility and heat-resistant properties. Products using chrysotile asbestos are still manufactured in some countries.

The Hazards of Chrysotile Asbestos

All six types of asbestos are dangerous carcinogens. Exposure to any type in any amount can result in illnesses and diseases such as asbestosis, mesothelioma, lung cancer and ovarian cancer. These ailments take years – often decades – to develop and show symptoms after the date of asbestos exposure.

Chrysotile asbestos is often viewed as the most dangerous type because of how often it was used in products and materials. This makes it more likely to present a hazard to the public. If you inhale, ingest or are otherwise exposed to chrysotile asbestos, the particles may become permanently lodged within your body.

If you breathe in asbestos dust, for example, the fibers could become stuck in the lining that surrounds your lungs (the pleura). Over time, these fibers can cause irritation and scar tissue that can become cancerous (pleural mesothelioma). Exposure to chrysotile asbestos can also cause many other serious and irreversible health problems.

Where Is Chrysotile Asbestos Found?

Unfortunately, even after the U.S. stopped manufacturing items with asbestos, many buildings and products still contain chrysotile and other types of asbestos. You may encounter chrysotile asbestos in the following places:

  • Buildings, especially older buildings
  • Insulation and fireproofing materials
  • Roofing materials
  • The automotive industry (brake lining and brake pads)
  • Gaskets and clutches
  • Vinyl tile
  • Asphalt and cement
  • Workplaces and office buildings
  • Schools
  • Consumer products
  • Plastics, rubber and textiles
  • Makeup and cosmetics
  • Talcum powder
  • Adhesives
  • The military

Some items right in your home may contain asbestos. If you believe your home or the products that you use could contain chrysotile or another type of asbestos, hire a professional for safe removal and asbestos disposal.

How to Keep Yourself Safe From Chrysotile Asbestos

Educating yourself on the dangers of asbestos and where you are most likely to encounter it in your life can help you avoid exposure. There are certain times and places where you may be more at risk of being exposed to asbestos, such as during the demolition or renovation of an older building, or if you work in the construction or automotive industry.

If you are in one of these situations, take steps to protect yourself from exposure. Wear a HEPA respirator, for example, to avoid breathing in tiny asbestos fibers. Use gloves and clothes that you are prepared to throw away so that you don’t bring asbestos home with you on your clothing. If you believe that you are in a position where you could be exposed to asbestos, contact a trained professional to safely handle the situation.

If exposure to chrysotile or any other type of asbestos results in a diagnosis of mesothelioma, contact an attorney for a free consultation about your legal options. You may have grounds to file a lawsuit for preventable asbestos exposure.

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