Difference Between Asbestos and Fiberglass (With Table)

Fibrous materials are generally those materials that are mainly made up of fibers. Fibrous materials are made after sticking a large number of single fibers to result in a solid substance. Asbestos and fiberglass are two of the fibrous materials which are used in many things in our day-to-day life.  

Asbestos And fiberglass are both composed of mainly extremely thin fibers. Sometimes, people working in the building trades and homeowners often mistaken asbestos for fiberglass. Because they are quite similar in many ways. Still, there is a distinction between them. 

 Asbestos vs Fiberglass 

The main difference between asbestos and fiberglass is that asbestos is a mineral that occurs naturally and is composed of mainly thin fibers. On the flip side, fiberglass is a mineral made by humans and is composed of thin, long fibers of glass. Asbestos is better resistant to abrasions and cuts, while fiberglass lacks are resistant to cut.  

Asbestos is a fibrous silicate mineral that occurs naturally. Six types are composed of thin and long fibrous crystals. Each fiber is composed of several microscopic “fibrils” by abrasion and other processes it can be released into the atmosphere. Inhalation of these fibers can lead to lung conditions like asbestosis, lung cancer, and mesothelioma.  

Fiberglass is a general type of fiber-reinforced plastic that uses glass fiber. The fibers might be randomly flattened, arranged into a sheet, or woven into glass cloth. It is more flexible and cheaper compared to carbon fiber. It is non-conductive, non-magnetic, and stronger than many other metals by weight. 

Comparison Table Between Asbestos and Fiberglass 

Parameters of ComparisonAsbestosFiberglass
OriginSince antiquityIn 1933
DerivedFrom mineralFrom glass
CreationNaturallyArtificially
Tensile strengthHighExceptionally higher than asbestos
Human carcinogenicProvenDebatable

What is Asbestos? 

Asbestos is a naturally occurring fibrous silicate mineral. It is well and long-lasting bonds with many materials and in this way, it adds durability and strength. Asbestos failed to dye easily and in case the material is dyed then it has poor and uneven colorfastness. The discovery of asbestos is since antiquity.   

Asbestos is highly heat resistant and an excellent electrical insulator. In the 20th century, asbestos was widely used as a building material across the world until the 1970s. Because in the 1970s, its harmful effects on human health were recognized. Several modern buildings which were constructed before the 1980s may contain asbestos.  

Formerly the fiber was used in gaskets, brake, insulation, linings, and in-ceiling tiles, floor, cement pipes, roofing shingles, and other building materials. The fabrics of asbestos but used for theater curtains, safety apparel, and fire stop hanging. By the 1970s, the Urals of the Soviet Union and Quebec in Canada were the major sources of its fiber.  

Also, the manufacture of the asbestos product in the world was led by the United States. The reports related to harmful effects on human health by asbestos fibers started increasing at the beginning of the 1970s. It was found out that inhalation of tiny fibers form can lead to serious lung conditions like asbestosis, lung cancer, and mesothelioma. 

What is Fiberglass? 

In fiberglass, the glass fiber is simply the reinforced plastic. That’s why fiberglass is known as glass fiber reinforced plastic or glass-reinforced plastic. The fiberglass is generally flattened into a sheet and randomly woven or arranged into a fabric. Depending on the usage, different types of glass can be used to make glass fibers.  

Depending on the usage of raw materials and their proportions to manufacture fiberglass, it can be divided into A-glass, C-glass, E-glass, AE-glass, and S-glass. Fiberglass comes in several types to suit various applications but the major ones are fiberglass cloth, tape, and rope.  

Fiberglass is used in many appliances due to its properties such as incombustibility, mechanical strength, non-rotting, electrical characteristics, and dimensional stability. It also has thermal conductivity, dielectric permeability, and compatibility with organic matrices.  

Fiberglass is safe, durable, and provides high thermal insulation. In industrial gaskets, fiberglass is one of the materials which is widely preferred. They provide better insulation, conserve energy, ensure the safety of the workforce, and protect the machinery. That’s why this is widely used in industries such as chemical, beverage, food processing, and many more. 

Main Differences Between Asbestos and Fiberglass 

  1. When it comes to composition, asbestos is a mineral that occurs naturally and is composed of mainly thin fibers. On the other hand, fiberglass is a mineral made by humans and is composed of thin, long fibers of glass.  
  2. In comparison to fiberglass, asbestos fails to offer a consistent temperature for operating, while fiberglass offers a better operating temperature compared to asbestos.  
  3. In terms of cut resistance, asbestos is better resistant to abrasions and cuts. On the flip side, fiberglass lacks resistance to cuts.  
  4. Asbestos has heat resistance in higher compared to fiberglass. When it comes to fiberglass, it is more temperature resistant than cotton and polyamide but not comparable to asbestos.  
  5. Asbestos is used in surfacing materials, thermal system insulation, fireproofing, reinforcement, etc. But fiberglass is used in storage tanks, aircraft boats, automobiles, septic tanks, bathtubs, etc. 

Conclusion 

It can be concluded that both asbestos and fiberglass are fibrous materials that are composed of extremely thin fibers. Due to their similarities, sometimes they both are mistaken for each other. Asbestos is a mineral that occurs naturally, while fiberglass is a material made by humans.  

For the group of natural fibrous minerals, asbestos is a common name. It is used in many manufacturing products like roofing. A fiberglass is a form of plastic that is fiber-reinforced. Specifically, in heat insulation, fiberglass can be used as an alternative for asbestos. However, the usage of asbestos is banned in several countries due to the health risk caused by it. 

References 

  1. https://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=dmBWIkIu_IwC&oi=fnd&pg=PA63&dq=asbestos&ots=rR6gEqcBbz&sig=0b361Ke1Zf8UYoKTB_SrkPRJxSc
  2. https://link.springer.com/content/pdf/10.1007/978-1-4419-0736-3.pdf
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