Through a process of breaking up the natural mineral form of asbestos, long thin strands of asbestos fiber are created. These fibers can be made into a yarn that is used to manufacture other materials and woven into an assortment of things. Asbestos yarn was used to pack and seal piping and bearings. It could also be woven into other products that were generally used to insulate heat-conducting materials.
While other forms of asbestos have been banned, asbestos yarn and products that are produced from this material are still labeled safe for import into the United States. Asbestos yarn is considered a safer form of asbestos because it is made from a mineral called chrysotile. It is touted to be the form of asbestos that is the most safe to use because it has longer fibers. Because of the fibers’ natural serpentine shape, they may be more easily expelled from the lungs if it is accidentally breathed in. The longer fiber form of the chrysotile also means that it is relatively dust free.
The United States imported around 100 tons of asbestos yarn and other asbestos-containing fabric products from Mexico in 2002. Even though all of the yarn that is imported is considered safe because it is manufactured from chrysotile, many critics argue that no asbestos is completely safe. They also agree that even the slightest amount of exposure to the material is unsafe. Even chrysotile becomes dangerous when the products made from it age or break down, allowing small fibers of the material to be released into the air. Thus, any products containing asbestos yarn should be removed and disposed of properly.