Asbestos is a mineral fiber that occurs in rock and soil.
Because of its fiber strength and heat resistance asbestos has been used in a variety of building construction materials for insulation and as a fire retardant. Asbestos has also been used in a wide range of manufactured goods, mostly in building materials (roofing shingles, ceiling and floor tiles, paper products, and asbestos cement products), friction products (automobile clutch, brake, and transmission parts), heat-resistant fabrics, packaging, gaskets, and coatings.
Where asbestos may be found:
Asbestos fibers may be released into the air by the disturbance of asbestos-containing material during product use, demolition work, building or home maintenance, repair, and remodeling. In general, exposure may occur only when the asbestos-containing material is disturbed or damaged in some way to release particles and fibers into the air.
Exposure to asbestos increases your risk of developing lung disease. That risk is made worse by smoking. In general, the greater the exposure to asbestos, the greater the chance of developing harmful health effects.
Disease symptoms may take many years to develop following exposure.
Asbestos-related conditions can be difficult to identify. Healthcare providers usually identify the possibility of asbestos exposure and related health conditions like lung disease by taking a thorough medical history. This includes looking at the person’s medical, work, cultural and environmental history.
After a doctor suspects an asbestos-related health condition, he or she can use a number of tools to help make the actual diagnosis. Some of these tools are physical examination, chest x-ray and pulmonary function tests. Your doctor may also refer you to a specialist who treats diseases caused by asbestos.
Three of the major health effects associated with asbestos exposure are:
For more information on these and other health effects of asbestos exposure see the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and the National Cancer Institute.
If the asbestos-containing material is more than slightly damaged or could be disturbed, there are two types of actions that can be taken by trained and accredited asbestos professionals: repair and removal.
Repair usually involves either sealing or covering asbestos material. With any type of repair, the asbestos remains in place.
Removal may be required when remodeling or making major changes to your home will disturb asbestos-containing material. Also, removal may be called for if asbestos-containing material is damaged extensively and cannot be otherwise repaired. Removal is complex and must be done only by a trained and accredited asbestos professional. Improper removal may actually increase your and your family’s exposure to asbestos fibers.