Asbestos is the generic name applied to various fibrous mineral silicates such as chrysotile (serpentine asbestos) and various amphiboles (anthophyllite, riebeckite, actinote, tremolite).
Asbestos is a refractory material used as a thermal insulator, in building, mixed with cement, or in the manufacture of brake and clutch linings.
Its use is being phased out and prohibited in most applications beginning with flocking (coating of asbestos with cement binder). This is because asbestos has a tendency to disintegrate into fine particles which, when inhaled, can cause serious respiratory disease (in the lungs these particles alter the pleura cells). Deflocking is required to make the buildings in which it was used safe.
Asbestosis is a condition related to the absorption of high doses of asbestos causing death in the short term (from a few months to a few years). At low doses inhaling asbestos causes cancers (mesothelioma, a form of cancer of the pleurus).