Asbestos vs Fiberglass: Difference and Comparison

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

Asbestos And fibreglass are both composed of mainly extremely thin fibres. Sometimes, people working in the building trades and homeowners mistake asbestos for fibreglass.

Because they are quite similar in many ways, still, there is a distinction between them. 

Key Takeaways

  1. Asbestos is a natural mineral fiber known for its heat resistance and insulation properties, while fiberglass is an artificial material composed of fine strands of glass.
  2. Asbestos exposure can lead to severe health risks, including lung cancer and mesothelioma, while fiberglass is considered safer but may cause skin and respiratory irritation.
  3. Fiberglass has largely replaced asbestos in insulation and construction materials due to its safer nature and similar properties.

 Asbestos vs Fiberglass 

Asbestos is an insulation material, which has been found to be a health hazard when its fibers are inhaled, as they can cause lung diseases. Fiberglass, is a type of synthetic material made of glass fibers that is also used as insulation. It is considered safe in cases of inhalation.

Asbestos vs Fiberglass
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Asbestos is a fibrous silicate mineral that occurs naturally. Six types are composed of thin and long fibrous crystals.

Each fibre is composed of several microscopic “fibrils” by abrasion and other processes, it can be released into the atmosphere. Inhalation of these fibres can lead to lung conditions like asbestosis, lung cancer, and mesothelioma.  

Fibreglass is a general type of fibre-reinforced plastic that uses glass fibre. The fibres might be randomly flattened, arranged into a sheet, or woven into glass cloth.

It is more flexible and cheaper compared to carbon fibre. It is non-conductive, non-magnetic, and stronger than many other metals by weight. 

Comparison Table

Parameters of ComparisonAsbestosFibreglass
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 and bonds with many materials, and in this way, it adds durability and strength.

Asbestos fails to dye easily, and if the material is dyed, it has poor and uneven colourfastness. The discovery of asbestos has been 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 fibre was used in gaskets, brakes, insulation, linings, and in-ceiling tiles, floor, cement pipes, roofing shingles, and other building materials. The fabrics of asbestos but used for theatre 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 fibre.  

Also, the United States led the manufacture of asbestos products in the world. The reports related to the harmful effects of asbestos fibres on human health started increasing in the 1970s.

It was found that inhalation of tiny fibres form can lead to serious lung conditions like asbestosis, lung cancer, and mesothelioma. 

asbestos

What is Fiberglass? 

In fibreglass, the glass fibre is reinforced plastic. That’s why fibreglass is known as glass fibre-reinforced plastic or glass-reinforced plastic.

The fibreglass is 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 fibres.  

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

Fibreglass 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.  

Fibreglass is safe, durable, and provides high thermal insulation. In industrial gaskets, fibreglass 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 chemical, beverage, food processing, and many more industries. 

fiberglass

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 fibres. On the other hand, fibreglass is a mineral made by humans and composed of thin, long glass fibres.  
  2. Compared to fibreglass, asbestos fails to offer a consistent temperature for operating, while fibreglass offers a better operating temperature than asbestos.  
  3. In terms of cut resistance, asbestos is better resistant to abrasions and cuts. On the flip side, fibreglass lacks resistance to cuts.  
  4. Asbestos has heat resistance in higher compared to fibreglass. When it comes to fibreglass, 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 fibreglass is used in storage tanks, aircraft boats, automobiles, septic tanks, bathtubs, etc. 
Difference Between Asbestos and Fiberglass
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

Last Updated : 11 June, 2023

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