What does asbestos look like?


What does Asbestos look like? If you think you have asbestos present in your premises, contact us for asbestos guidance and support.

What does asbestos look like?

There are three types of asbestos:

  • White Asbestos – Chrysotile
  • Brown Asbestos – Amosite
  • Blue Asbestos – Crocidolite

All are hazardous and should not be removed or disturbed without a fully licensed asbestos specialist present.

If you think you have asbestos on your premises here are a few key features to look out for.

White Asbestos – Chrysotile

Chrysotile, also known as white asbestos, is a member of the Serpentine group, so-named because the fibre is curly. Chrysotile fibres are the most flexible of all asbestos fibres. Chrysotile fibres can withstand the fiercest heat but are so soft and flexible that they can be spun and woven as easily as cotton. Resistance to alkaline attack makes chrysotile a useful reinforcing material in asbestos-cement building products. Chrysotile was banned in the UK in 1999.

Common Uses

Chrysotile is an extremely common used type of asbestos and is often present in a wide variety of products and materials, including:

  • Vinyl floor tiles, sheeting, commonly within the adhesives used beneath
  • Plaster and texture coatings
  • Roofing slates, tars and felts,
  • Acoustic ceilings
  • External Roofs i.e. Corrugated shed roofs
  • Flue Pipes, Soil and Vent Pipes & Rain Water Goods
  • Thermal pipe insulation
  • Fireproofing products
  • Stage curtains
  • Fire blankets
  • Interior fire doors

Brown Asbestos – Amosite

Amosite, also known as brown asbestos, is a member of the Amphibole group. Its harsh, spiky fibres have good tensile strength and resistance to heat. In buildings, amosite was used for anti-condensation and acoustic purposes. On structural steel, it was used for fire protection. Between the 1920s and the late 1960s, amosite was used in preformed thermal insulation, pipes, slabs and moulded pipe fitting covers. In the UK, amosite was also used widely in the manufacture of insulation boards. The import of amosite was banned as of 1 January 1986 by The Asbestos (Prohibitions) Regulations 1985.

Common Uses

Amosite is another very commonly used type of asbestos and is often present in a variety of products and materials, including:

  • General Insulating Boards
  • External Soffits & Fascia
  • Ceiling Panels
  • Toilet Cisterns
  • Boiler Cupboard Doors & linings
  • Bath Panels
  • Radiator Covers
  • Fire partitions
  • Fire Door headers
  • Lift Doors / linings

Blue Asbestos – Crocidolite

Crocidolite, also known as blue asbestos, is a member of the Amphibole group. The needle like fibres are the strongest of all asbestos fibres and have a high resistance to acids. Crocidolite was used in yarn and rope lagging from the 1880s until the mid-1960s and in preformed thermal insulation from the mid-1920s until 1950. The high bulk volume of crocidolite makes it suitable for use in sprayed insulation.

Crocidolite is known to be the most lethal of all the asbestos types. The import of crocidolite peaked in 1950; fell by 25% in 1960 and by 88% in 1970. The “import, supply and use of crude, fibre, flake, powder or waste crocidolite or amosite” wasn’t actually banned until the Asbestos (Prohibitions) Regulations of 1985 came into force, although strict guidelines had regulated its use since 1969.

Common Uses

Crocidolite is most commonly used in insulation products due to high fibre strengths. This type of asbestos is found commonly in commercial buildings where larger heating installations require insulation and structural elements require fire protection. It is seldom used in residential properties, however its use to insulate pipework, loft spaces (in pure form) etc. has been known. Typical uses of the Crocidolite includes:

  • Sprayed asbestos (flock) to structural beams, soffits
  • Thermal Insulation to Pipework (lagging)
  • Hard-set insulation to pipes, cylinders, calorifiers and boilers
  • Asbestos rope (seals and gaskets)
  • Loft insulation – pure form (not mixed with other materials)
  • Asbestos Cement (this is not licensed or notifiable, as asbestos fibres are bonded into cement composition)

If you think you have asbestos present in your premises, contact us for asbestos guidance and support.


2 thoughts on “What does asbestos look like?

  1. Joanna Millar Reply

    We bought our home over a year ag, typical semi-detached house built in the 1950’s.
    When my family got the keys they were more than keep to have a nosey everywhere, my sister had found what she thought was a roll of underlay sat on two timber beams, luckily she never touched it.
    She then got her partner to check it and he is sure it’s asbestos, when we moved back from Germany I was keep to have a look, it’s about 3-3.5ft in length and by aprearance if it was rolled out I’d say about the same, I didn’t get close enough to look at the fibres but I know it’s dark in colour.
    This was a monstrosity of a house and we have spent a lot of money trying to modernise it and having it functional which left us short, this is why I haven’t had anyone come to inspect it as it’s so costly to do but I am so concerned as I have 2 children and the thought of anything happen to me as I’ve been up the loft a few times, or if the fibres was loose and it got to my children I couldn’t forgive myself, so time to bite the bullet and get this fixed, can I safely removed it myself with PPE and materials provided by a recycling unit using the water method or do I have someone come look at it? And how do I know if any particles/ fibre/ dust could have came loose without any of us physically touching it?
    Many thanks

    • Cat Simpson Post authorReply

      Hello Joanna,

      Thank you for getting in touch.

      One of our asbestos management experts will contact you directly to discuss your specific situation.

      Many thanks,
      ASB Environmental team

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