Cover Image
close this bookAsbestos Overview and Handling Recommendations (GTZ, 1996)
close this folderPart I. Introduction
View the document1. Introduction
View the document2. Structure
View the document3. Definition of terms

3. Definition of terms

Asbestos is a collective description for different naturally occurring fibrous minerals. The legislative definition describes Asbestos as a collective term for naturally occurring crystalline silicate with fibrous structure. The term "fiber" is defined by its geometry: fibers having a length > 5 km, a diameter < 3 km and a length/diameter ratio of at least 3:1. An important property of Asbestos materials is the continual splitting along their length down to the very smallest fibers.

Asbestos minerals are natural components of the Earth's crust. The name "Asbestos" originates from Greek and means "inextinguishable", whereby one of the material characteristics is mentioned which led to the great usefulness and industrial interest in this material.

The differentiation among Asbestos containing products is made between nonfriable and friable Asbestos:


Asbestos cement or hard Asbestos with a gross density significantly higher than 1000 kg/m³ and an Asbestos percentage of 10 - 15 % (remainder is cement)


Sprayed Asbestos/soft Asbestos with a gross density under 1000 kg/m³; ca. 60 % Asbestos powder, ca. 40 % cement

Friable Asbestos can easily be released from the surface by hand. As of 1979, sprayed Asbestos has been prohibited in the Federal Republic of Germany, due to the associated health hazards. Asbestos cements were permitted to be manufactured until the end of 1993; about 70 % of the applied Asbestos amounts are fabricated into Asbestos cements.