Thursday, August 03, 2006

Asbestos for Mineral Collectors

When we had our Phase 1 Environmental Survey done to purchase our new building, the bank sent a young "environmental scientist" to do a write up on our building. He stated that there was asbestos in the sheetrock, plaster, floor, and the cement. When I asked him what kind of asbestos he thought there was in all this stuff, he was a little confused. He thought that the rock dust created from crushing rocks to make the aggregate for the cement was asbestos. I tried to explain asbestos to him but he didn't really care. I thought was a shame that a so called scientist didn't care if he had the right information. As it turns out his whole company was a farce when it comes to doing environmental work.

So here is the skinny on asbestos.

Asbestos is not a mineral but a family of minerals. In ancient times it was referred to as "incombustible fabric" and " immortal linen."

During Roman times many dignitaries were wrapped in "linum vivum" (immortal linen) so the ashes could be collected after cremation.

Charlemagne had tablecloths made from this same material so that he could startle his guests by throwing the tablecloths into the fire to clean them after dinner. The tablecloths would come out clean and unburned. What a way to show off a little magic!

As I said earlier, asbestos is not one mineral. It is actually divided into 2 groups, 1. Chrysotile and serpentine, and 2. Amphibole minerals consisting of anthophyllite, amosite, crocidolite, tremolite, and actinolite.

Many of you are familiar with Tiger's Eye. This is basically petrified crocidolite with goethite and iron as coloring agents.

In modern times asbestos has been used to create a number of different materials that are fire-resistant, everything from roofing to baby clothes, floor tiles to ceiling tiles, gaskets, and filters.

The problem with it is that the fibers get imbedded into the lungs and the lungs can't get them out. After a short time scar tissue builds up around the fibers, making the lungs non-pliable. Once this happens you can't breathe and...well that is bad.

Of all the varieties of asbestos, only the short fiber varieties are "bad." The long fiber varieties are easily expelled from your lungs. The short ones (or long ones ground up and made short) are the ones that cause such a health risk. As items with these fibers start to deteriorate, the fibers become airborne.

So the trick to avoiding suffocation is to make sure you are not breathing the dust. People who have it in their homes, offices, cars, etc. can find comfort in the fact that you can cover it with paint, etc. and that illiminates the deterioration of the product, and therefore the health risk.

If you suspect you have asbestos in or around your environment, you should consult with experts to determine your health risk.

Today there is almost no asbestos mined. The largest mine in the western hemisphere (in Quebec, Canada) closed last year.

We have hand samples of asbestos from Canada for sale. They are green serpentine with bands or layers of fiberous crocidolite. They are not really dangerous unless you peel them apart and snort the fibers. $5 each.

Legal disclaimer: This article is meant for entertainment only. Nothing in this article is meant to be environmental or medical advice, or replace the advice of environment or medical experts. Please consult a properly licensed expert before undertaking an asbestos contamination or removal project.

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