A guide to different types of asbestos

Asbestos is a group of naturally occurring minerals that have been widely used in construction and manufacturing due to their heat-resistant and insulating properties. However, exposure to asbestos fibres can lead to serious health issues, including lung diseases and cancer. In the UK, asbestos was commonly used in buildings until the late 20th century, and identifying its types is crucial for proper management and removal. There are six main types of asbestos, which can be categorised into two mineral groups: serpentine and amphibole.

Chrysotile (White Asbestos)

Mineral Group: Serpentine

Appearance: Long, curly fibres that are flexible.

Common Uses: Widely used in roofing materials, ceilings, walls, and floors, as well as in automotive and textile industries.

Health Risks: Less hazardous than amphibole asbestos but still poses health risks.

Handling: Chrysotile is generally considered less hazardous, but professional handling is still required. Workers use appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) and follow established procedures to minimise fibre release.

Removal: Removal is done by trained and licensed asbestos removal professionals using wet methods to suppress dust. The material is carefully bagged and labelled for disposal.

Amosite (Brown Asbestos)

Mineral Group: Amphibole

Appearance: Straight, needle-like fibres that are brown in colour.

Common Uses: Commonly used in insulation boards, cement sheets, and plumbing insulation.

Health Risks: More hazardous than chrysotile; can cause lung diseases and cancers.

Handling: Due to its increased health risks, handling amosite requires strict safety measures. Workers wear high-level PPE, and the area is isolated to prevent the spread of fibres. Amosite-containing materials are carefully removed, using wet methods and specialised tools. The removed materials are sealed in impermeable bags, and workers follow decontamination procedures.

Crocidolite (Blue Asbestos)

Mineral Group: Amphibole

Appearance: Blue-grey, straight, and brittle fibres.

Common Uses: Historically used in the insulation of steam engines and for making yarn and rope lagging.

Health Risks: Highly dangerous; inhalation of crocidolite fibres is strongly associated with lung disease and mesothelioma.

Handling: Crocidolite is highly hazardous, and extreme precautions are taken during handling. Workers wear full-body PPE with high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) respirators to prevent inhalation. Removal is conducted with the utmost care, employing wet methods and encapsulation to prevent fibre release. Specialised equipment is used to avoid breakage, and strict decontamination procedures are followed.


Mineral Group: Amphibole

Appearance: White, grey, or greenish fibres that can be either straight or curled.

Common Uses: Less commonly used in commercial applications but can be found as a contaminant in other minerals.

Health Risks: Can be associated with lung diseases when present in asbestos-containing materials.


Mineral Group: Amphibole

Appearance: Dark green to black fibres, occurring in both straight and curly forms.

Common Uses: Similar to tremolite, it is less commonly used but can be present as a contaminant.

Health Risks: Can pose health risks if present in asbestos-containing materials.


Mineral Group: Amphibole

Appearance: Grey-brown fibres, often occurring in a brittle, straight form.

Common Uses: Least common asbestos type, found as a contaminant in some minerals.

Health Risks: Can pose health risks if present in asbestos-containing materials.

Handling Tremolite, Actinolite, and Anthophyllite

These less common asbestos types are handled with similar precautions to amosite and crocidolite. Workers wear appropriate PPE, and the work area is carefully controlled to prevent fibre dispersion. Removal procedures involve wet methods and careful extraction, and the materials are bagged, labelled, and disposed of in accordance with regulations.

Key considerations and safety measures

Asbestos surveys

Before any demolition or refurbishment work, a thorough asbestos survey should be conducted to identify the presence and type of asbestos in a building.

Professional removal

If asbestos is identified, removal should be carried out by licensed and trained professionals to minimise the risk of exposure.

Proper handling

Never attempt to handle or remove asbestos-containing materials without proper training and equipment.

Safety gear

Individuals working with or around asbestos should wear appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) such as masks, gloves, and coveralls.

Legal compliance

Ensure compliance with local regulations and guidelines related to asbestos removal and disposal.

Asbestos poses serious health risks, and it’s essential to approach its identification and management with caution and expertise. When in doubt, consult with asbestos professionals to ensure the safety of individuals and the environment. It is crucial that asbestos handling is conducted by licensed and trained professionals who follow local regulations and guidelines. DIY asbestos removal is strongly discouraged due to the significant health risks involved.

Contact the expert team at All About Asbestos on 01843 600 765 to receive professional assistance with the asbestos in your building. We have the knowledge and expertise to handle the situation responsibly.