Asbestos In Nature

In reality, “asbestos” is a legal and commercial term that describes a specific group of silicate materials forming long bundles of very thin and lengthy mineral fibers. Read on to learn more about asbestos in nature.

Asbestos is most commonly found in three rock types: serpentinites, altered ultramafic rocks, and some mafic rocks. Other rock types known to host asbestos include metamorphosed dolostones, metamorphosed iron formations, carbonatites, and alkalic intrusions. Contributing to asbestos formation is the faulting and fracturing of these rocks with increased temperatures, pressures, and the presence of water. The amount of asbestos or asbestiform minerals in these rocks can range in size from commercial-grade ore bodies to thin impure veinlets or low-grade occurrences. Asbestos can be released from these rocks if the rocks are broken or crushed. Asbestos can also be released from asbestos-containing soils that are stirred up. The presence and prevalence of asbestos fibers in soils overlaying rocks containing asbestos is not known and needs to be evaluated.

What are the known locations of Naturally Occurring Asbestos?

The history of asbestos discovery and usage is at least 5,000 years old. In the United States, the prospecting and identification of asbestos began in the mid to late 1800s. The US Geological Survey, in 2006 and 2007, completed literature reviews of the known locations of naturally occurring asbestos in the Eastern USExternal , Central USExternal , and Rocky Mountain US StatesExternal . Information about the western US States is available at USGS at (Mineral Resources On-line Spatial DataExternal ).

ATSDR combined these data sets into two single maps, which can be viewed below:

  • US Cdc-pdf[PDF – 1 MB]
    This map highlights the top 100 fastest growing counties within the contiguous United States and Alaska and the location of naturally occurring asbestos.
  • Georgia Cdc-pdf[PDF – 2 MB]
    This map depicts the 100 fastest growing US counties in north Georgia in relation to the locations of naturally occurring asbestos and ultramafic rocks which are known to host asbestos.

Can Naturally Occurring Asbestos become a Health Problem?

Naturally occurring asbestos is only a health problem if it is disturbed. Asbestos is made up of fibers that are so small you cannot see them. If asbestos fibers are in the air you breathe, you might get asbestos fibers in your lungs. Breathing in the fibers is the primary way that people are exposed to asbestos.

The US Cdc-pdf[PDF – 1 MB] and Georgia Cdc-pdf[PDF – 2 MB] maps show the known locations of naturally occurring asbestos in the United States and provide an indicator of areas that may be more prone to surface soil disturbance.

The two indicators these maps define are listed below:

  • Increase in the number of homes by housing starts
  • Increase in population by the 100 fastest-growing counties

Source: https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/noa/where_is_asbestos_found.html

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Disclaimer

The Asbestos Institute is not the official authority to determine OSHA training requirements, which are set forth in the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970. OSHA regulations are always being revised, added, and/or deleted, so you must not rely on The Asbestos Institute as the official authority of OSHA asbestos training requirements. Visit the official OSHA Asbestos Training Requirements page here.

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