What Is 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 are also long, thin and flexible, so that they can even be woven into cloth, 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.
Is Asbestos Dangerous?
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 tiny 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 tissue for a long time. After many years cancer or mesothelioma can 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.