Anthophyllite asbestos is part of the amphibole group and is characterized by shades of brown, gray and off-white with a chain-like structure to its fibers. Composed of magnesium, iron, silicon, oxygen and hydrogen, anthophyllite forms in large, shapeless crystals that sometimes have streaks of gray which gives it a pearl-like luster. It is found in metamorphic and metasomatic rocks.
Uses of Anthophyllite
Anthophyllite has been used in a number of household products and has been a common contaminant in talc, the mineral from which it is derived. It is formed when sustained high temperatures cause carbon dioxide and water to destabilize the talc mineral in ultramafic rock, causing it to disintegrate. Often found in the same mines as talc, the geologic link of the two minerals explains the occasional contamination which is much less prevalent today than three decades ago.
The fibers of anthophyllite are too brittle for use in items requiring high friction, such as brake pads, but it has been used in paints, sealants, oil-based primers and refractory cements. Anthophyllite fibers can also be found among natural minerals that expand with heat, including vermiculite which is often found in gardening soil.
Dangers of Anthophyllite
Health officials and scientists have confirmed that anthophyllite asbestos is a human carcinogen. When the fibers are inhaled or ingested, they can become lodged in the pleural lining of the lungs, heart, abdomen, and in very rare cases, the testicles. This can lead to serious and life-threatening cancers.
Studies have shown that anthophyllite is a major cause of mesothelioma cancer which affects many vital organs of the body. There was a study done where scientists observed 999 Finnish anthophyllite workers over a number of years. Before 1991, there were more than 500 deaths among this group of workers. Scientists confirmed that at least four were caused by mesothelioma. To make note, all four of the victims were also smokers which is known to increase chances of cancer after exposure to anthophyllite and many other types of asbestos.
Exposure to anthophyllite asbestos can come from working in any number of different occupations and settings, including painting and construction and shipyard work. In addition, since talcum powder and other products made from talc may contain traces of anthophyllite, many consumers, infants and children have also been exposed to it.