Molecular spectroscopy and microscopy provide extensive opportunities for the identification and quantification of various types of asbestos and alpha-quartz in the environment.
In recent years, the control of toxic materials in the environment has become more and more intensive, not only for the protection of human health, but also due to the much-discussed issue of ecosphere pollution. Legislation in almost all developed countries imposes limits on most of these substances for their use and for their permissible amount in the environment. In most cases, the excessive occurrence of these substances in the ecosphere is associated with industrial production, transport or mining.
The industry development necessarily is also the origin of new types of diseases, such as silicosis (a form of pneumoconiosis) and asbestosis (progressive lung fibrosis). As their names suggest, these diseases are caused by inhalation of the respirable fraction of silica (alpha-quartz) and asbestos.
Simply put, asbestos is the name for a group of several different natural fibrous minerals of silicate-magnesium character and other substances. Some of these minerals (tremolite, actinolite and anthophylite) also have non-fibrous forms in nature, but are not classified as asbestos. The ability to form long thin fibers has also been one of the reasons for the widespread use of asbestos as a suitable thermal insulation material.
The picture shows a typical fibrous structure of natural asbestos Chrysotil: Mg3Si2O5(OH)4.
More information on the possibilities of FT-IR, FT-NIR and Raman spectroscopy and microscopy for the analysis of asbestos and SiO2in the environment can be foundhere.