Transactions of the Society for Mining, Metallurgy, and Exploration, Inc.
Transactions home

  SME FaceBook SME Twitter SME LinkedIn RSS Feed

Current issues with purported “asbestos” content of talc: Asbestos nomenclature and examples in metamorphic carbonate and ultramafic hosted talc ores

Transactions of the Society for Mining, Metallurgy, and Exploration , 2018, Vol. 344, No. 1, pp. 15-24

Gunter, M.E.; Buzon, M.E.; McNamee, B.D.



A Google search on talc asbestos yields more than 500,000 hits due to the growing number of civil lawsuits in this area. Historically, the litigation was centered on amphibole-containing industrial talc. There was no debate these talcs contained amphiboles, but the issue was the definition of asbestos and whether the amphiboles had an asbestiform habit. Ultramafic-hosted talcs, however, are formed in such a way as to not favor the formation of amphiboles in the talc, but they can occur in the surrounding black-wall. In these deposits, the serpentinite host rock is in direct contact with the talc, therefore, allegations can be made that non-asbestiform amphiboles or non-regulated serpentine group minerals can occur in the final products. We analyzed talcs from both metamorphosed carbonate- and ultramafic-hosted talc deposits using polarized light microscopy (PLM), scanning electron microscopy (SEM) with energy-dispersive spectroscopy (EDS), electron microprobe (EPMA) with wavelength-dispersive spectroscopy (WDS), transmission electron microscopy (TEM) with EDS, and powder X-ray diffraction (XRD). Compositions of minerals determined by EDS alone are not sufficient to confidently identify asbestos, despite common practices by some researchers. We emphasize, using both historical samples, and analyses of currently contested minerals, the importance of determining both the structure and composition of a mineral, as well as defining its morphology, before concluding whether it is asbestos.