Asbestos is a form of silicate. The hazardous fibrous material consists of very long chains of silicon and oxygen (polysilicate or long chain silicate) with the general formula: (Si 4 O116-)n (please see our asbestos images). Silicon and oxygen combine in a tetrahedral fashion, with a silicon
atom surrounded by four oxygen atoms.
In the silicate chains some of the oxygen atoms are shared and the result is a chain of hexagons . These chains occur in huge parallel arrays with various ions sandwiched between them. It is these very long, hard and inert chains of silicon and oxygen that give asbestos its fibrous and resistant nature. It seems that this very unyielding structure is what interferes with
cellular function and causes certain health problems associated with asbestos such as asbestosis and mesothelioma. Industrial or accidental exposure to asbestos fibres or particles is a serious problem.