Asbestos

Asbestos is a mineral fiber found in rocks of naturally occurring silicate minerals that can be separated into fibers. There are several kinds of asbestos fibers, all of which are fire resistant and not easily destroyed or degraded by natural processes. The fibers are strong, durable, and resistant to heat and fire. They can be woven into cloth because the fibers are long, thin and flexible. Because of these qualities, asbestos has been used in thousands of consumer, industrial, maritime, automotive, scientific and building products.

During the twentieth century, some 30 million tons of asbestos have been used in industrial sites, homes, schools, shipyards and commercial buildings in the United States. There are several types of asbestos fibers, of which three have been used for commercial applications: (1) Chrysotile, or white asbestos, comes mainly from Canada, and has been very widely used in the US. It is white-gray in color and found in serpentine rock. (2) Amosite, or brown asbestos, comes from southern Africa. (3) Crocidolite, or blue asbestos, comes from southern Africa and Australia.

Dangers of Asbestos

Asbestos has been shown to cause cancer of the lung and stomach according to studies of workers and others exposed to asbestos. There is no level of exposure to asbestos fibers that experts can assure is completely safe. Some asbestos materials can break into small fibers which can float in the air and these fibers can be inhaled. The fibers are so small they can not be seen with the naked eye. They can pass through the filters of normal vacuum cleaners and get back into the air. Once inhaled, asbestos fibers can become lodged in lung tissue. After many years cancer or mesothelioma may develop.

Are All products With Asbestos A Health Risk?

No. A health risk exists only when asbestos fibers are released from the material or product. Soft, easily crumbled asbestos containing material has the greatest potential for asbestos release and therefore has the greatest potential to create health risks.

Do All People Exposed To Asbestos, Develop Asbestos Related Disease?

No. Most people exposed to small amounts of asbestos do not develop any related health problems. Health studies of asbestos workers and others, however, have shown that the chances of developing some serious illnesses, included lung cancer, are greater after exposure to asbestos.

What Are Asbestos-Containing Products?

What is common to many asbestos-containing products is that they were (are) used to contain heat (i.e. thermal insulation.) This was the main reason for their use. It is impossible to list all of the products that have, at one time or another, contained asbestos. One of the most common products in which asbestos is found the insulation material found on heating pipes and ducts of homes built before 1960.

Some of the other common asbestos-containing products are insulating cement, insulating block, asbestos cloth, gaskets, packing materials, thermal seals, refractory and boiler insulation materials, transite board, asbestos cement pipe, fireproofing spray, joint compound, vinyl floor tile, ceiling tile, mastics, adhesives, coatings, acoustical textures, duct & pipe insulation for heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems, roofing products, insulated electrical wire and panels, and brake and clutch assemblies.

How Can I tell If I Have Asbestos In My Home

People who have frequently worked with asbestos (such as plumbers, building contractors or heating contractors) often are able to make a reasonable judgment about whether or not a material contains asbestos on a visual inspection. Sentence deleted Many professional home inspectors can make a reasonable visual judgment. To be absolutely certain, however, samples should be collected and analyzed by a Professional Lab, to make positive identifications.

If Asbestos Is Found In My Home, What Should I Do?

Consult EPA guidelines and regulations.

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