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Andrew Alden

An Introduction to Asbestos, updated

By September 11, 2013

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asbestosFor many years I've had an article here on what geologists teach about asbestos. It's basically an industrial term, avoided by mineralogists, with distinctly different meanings in the hands of medical researchers and environmental regulators. It is important to keep these meanings clear and distinct during discussions, especially since many people are determined to blur the distinctions.

I was corrected recently about part of the article by a reader who noted that asbestos was a known hazard to workers even in ancient times. I don't want to minimize that. But I do want to explain that asbestos, both in nature and in the home, is not especially harmful. Certainly collecting specimens like this one is completely benign.
Chrysotile fibers — Geology Guide photo

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