WHAT IS ASBESTOS?
- Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral composed of bundles of fibers. It has proven to be very resilient, serving as an excellent insulator that is not affected by heat or chemicals. It also serves as an ideal noise insulator and it does not conduct electricity. For these reasons, it has been used in building materials since the late 1800's and in automotive components as well.
- In 1971, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) declared asbestos unsafe and a hazardous air pollutant with strict requirements regulating removal and disposal.
- Asbestos has been determined to cause severe, and even fatal health problems such as Asbestosis (scarring of the lung tissues) and cancers of the lungs, esophagus, colon, pancreas, and stomach.
- Health problems resulting from asbestos exposure can take 10 to 40 years after exposure to appear in an individual.
- Asbestos must enter the body to cause health problems. This happens though inhalation or ingestion of asbestos fibers.
- Asbestos fibers can become airborne and a possible health hazard when materials containing asbestos are disturbed or improperly removed.
- Asbestos fibers are so microscopic that they are often unseen when airborne, thus individuals can be exposed to asbestos without their knowledge.
- Once asbestos is released in an area, it can remain in that area for an indefinite amount of time. Disturbed asbestos fibers become airborne and eventually settle down onto objects. These fibers can become airborne again upon any disturbance or activity in that area.
- Asbestos is safe and legal to remain in homes or public buildings as long as the asbestos materials are in good condition and the asbestos cannot be released into the air.
- Asbestos was banned in the 1970’s, but is still present in homes and buildings built after that time and is being used today to a limited extent.
WHERE CAN ASBESTOS BE FOUND?
Any products are in use today that contain asbestos. Most of these are materials used in heat and acoustic insulation, fire proofing, roofing and flooring. In 1989, the EPA identified the following asbestos product categories. Many of these materials may still be in use:
- asbestos-cement corrugated sheet
- asbestos-cement flat sheet
- asbestos-cement pipe
- asbestos-cement shingle roof coatings
- flooring felt
- pipeline wrap
- roofing felt
- non-roof coatings
- vinyl/asbestos floor tile
- commercial and industrial asbestos friction products
- commercial, corrugated and specialty paper
- mill board
- roll board
3 MAJOR HEALTH EFFECTS FROM ASBESTOS EXPOSURE:
- Mesothelioma - A rare form of malignant cancer involving the lining of the lungs, chest or abdomen. This disease is always associated with asbestos exposure and is fatal.
- Asbestosis - Inflammation and scarring of fibrous lung tissue which results in a reduction in lung capacity.
- Cancer - Lung, stomach and colon cancer, as well as other pleural diseases, can also be asbestos-related.
Exposure to airborne friable asbestos may result in a potential health risk because persons breathing the air may breathe in asbestos fibers. Continued exposure can increase the amount of fibers that remain in the lung and fibers embedded in lung tissue over time may cause serious lung diseases. Asbestos fibers associated with these health risks are too small to be seen with the naked eye, and smokers are at higher risk of developing some asbestos-related diseases.