Is Mica Safe?
Mica has numerous applications across many industry sectors, but is there any kind of downside? Is mica safe? This is a logical question to ask of mica, if you compare it to asbestos. Why asbestos? Because, while we now know the health risks associated with asbestos, at one time it was regarded as essential across different industries due to its fire-proofing capabilities. Furthermore, like mica, asbestos comes from silicate minerals. Read on to find out if Mica is safe.
The most commonly mined types of mica are muscovite, also known as white mica, and phlogopite, or green mica, but, there are in fact over 30 different kinds of this mineral.
The physical properties of muscovite and phlogopite mica make these forms of the mineral ideally suited to a broad range of applications, as a manufactured product and when applied to certain processes.
As a high temperature insulation material, mica is extremely resilient, but also highly adaptable. It retains its essential stability when exposed to extremes of heat, but is also physically tough, and resistant to both electricity and water.
Mica’s natural, physical condition means that, when mined, it splits, or cleaves, into thin sheets. This helps it retain its natural insulating properties. It can also be mined as flakes.
With its main properties of thermal and electrical resistance, mica is found in a wide variety of products. This has also been true of asbestos.
Is Mica Safe-Mica vs Asbestos
On several levels the comparisons between mica and asbestos are apt. We have already mentioned how, like mica, asbestos comes from silicate minerals. Also, like mica, asbestos has had widespread use and different industrial and commercial applications.
Typically, asbestos has been used in cement, in roofing and flooring and as thermal insulation for commercial and domestic premises.
It can be found as insulation in industrial wiring, and as a spray-on fire retardant for steel girders used in construction. In the automotive and aerospace industries, asbestos has been used in brake pads, linings, seals and gaskets.
Now, if you look at mica’s various uses, this begins to look familiar.
While mica has had its various uses historically, it is very much asbestos that has been a part of the industrial fabric of the 19th and 20th centuries.
But of course, we now know that exposure to it can be deadly.
Exposure to airborne asbestos fibres can cause fatal, asbestos-related lung diseases. There is no safe level of asbestos – inhaling the smallest amount of asbestos fibre can be extremely dangerous.
Furthermore, asbestos is not easy to identify. As what was once thought of as a miracle mineral, it is in over 18,000 products and building materials. While its manufacturing heyday was between the 1920s and 1970s, it was still used in the UK as recently as 1999.
The key thing to note is, regardless of the risk asbestos poses, most of the functions it traditionally has served are still essential in manufacturing, industry and everyday life.
Is Mica a Safe Alternative to Asbestos?
Unlike asbestos, mica does not possess the same airborne risks to health. But, like asbestos, mica has many applications when it comes to thermal insulation, heat resistance and fire proofing.
For example, you can add mica powder to wall boards used in construction. This helps reduce shrinkage, increases their thermal insulation capabilities and improves their fire resistance. The same applies to adding mica to cement and plaster for resistance to fire and thermal stability.
Mica performs the same role that asbestos has done in the past when it comes to manufactured shapes such as gaskets and washers; and it is a vital component when it comes to electrical insulation.
Also, like asbestos, mica can play a critical part when it comes to fire protection.
Mica-based products and microporous technology form the basis for Elmelin’s various fire-protection solutions.
Mica can offer the same kinds of solutions as asbestos, but with the crucial difference that mica is safe and non-hazardous to humans. Whether used in microporous materials, or as part of other composites, mica provides insulation for cables, pipes and tubes, and for lift doors and fire doors in buildings.
For passive fire protection purposes, mica can help as a fire-proofing lining material for both lift and fire doors. Fire doors are a vital, first line of defence in passive fire protection, and fire-proofed lift doors
are essential in helping contain fires which might otherwise travel through a building’s lift shaft.
Mica in Manufacturing
While mica is used widely in manufactured shapes such as washers and gaskets, and in insulation for power electronics and continuous process industries, it is also used in everyday consumer appliances such as hairdryers, toasters and microwave ovens.
Many items people rely on routinely will only function safely if they can reach high temperatures without risk to the user. Here, mica demonstrates its excellent thermal and electrical resistance, its mechanical strength, and its rapid heat transfer capabilities.
Consequently, it is a kind of unseen presence that touches on many areas of working and daily life, and helps with the safe functioning of different industrial and manufacturing processes.
Is Mica Safe for Your Industry?
We have only touched on some of the many different ways mica is essential to industry and manufacturing in providing a safe alternative to asbestos. It is, above all, a multi-faceted solution when it comes to various aspects of manufacturing processes and product design.
It may just be the safe solution you are looking for.
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