O.K. Talc and asbestos are both silicates. This I know. But, if they are so similar, what is it about asbestos that is so hazardous to your health? Just curious, dontcha know.
P.S. I checked the archives, did a search, etc. and came up empty, so if there is a specific site anyone could guide me to if they don’t feel like answering I would appreciate it.
First, Talc is a mineral; Asbestos is a general term for a group of minerals. Talc and the most common form of asbestos (chrysolite) are both not just silicates, but phyllosilicates–or “sheet silicates”, like micas. The most dangerous common form of asbestos is crocidolite, which is simply asbestiform riebeckite. Riebeckite is an amphibole, all of which are inosilicates–or “chain silicates”. I believe that it’s the long, fibrous chains that pose the risk; the more molecularly “platy” talc and chrysolite are relatively benign.
From the Manual of Mineralogy by C. Klein and C.S. Hurlbut: