What is asbestos?
- Asbestos is a set of naturally occurring silicate minerals exploited commercially for their desirable physical properties. Asbestos became increasingly popular among manufacturers and builders in the late 1900s because of its sound absorption, tensile strength, the ability to be woven, and its resistance to heat, electrical, and chemical damage.
Why is asbestos dangerous?
- The inhalation of asbestos fibers is a serious health risk. The fibers embed in the lung tissue and over time may cause lung diseases, including malignant lung cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestosis. Asbestos fibers may also become embedded in the skin and cause diseases such as asbestos warts, pleural plaques, and diffuse pleural thickening. Disease symptoms may take several years to develop following exposure.
When is asbestos dangerous?
- Exposure to asbestos is never healthy, however, asbestos exposure becomes a health concern when asbestos fibers are inhaled over a long period of time. When asbestos-containing materials are damaged or disturbed by repair, remodeling, or demolition activities, microscopic fibers become airborne and can be inhaled into the lungs, where they can cause significant health problems.
Is there still much asbestos left in the United States?
- Yes, in 2006, 2.3 million tons of asbestos were mined worldwide. This asbestos is still being used for the manufacture of products and materials which are then shipped into the United States.
What are typical products in which asbestos can be found?
- Vinyl floor tile, sheet flooring, and adhesives
- Drywall and joint compound
- Roofing tars, felts, siding, and shingles
- Transite panels, siding, counter tops, and pipes
- Popcorn ceiling, acoustic ceilings, and ceiling tiles
- Thermal pipe insulation
- HVAC flexible duct connectors
How can asbestos be identified?
- Asbestos can only be positively identified through the use of a special type of microscope. Unless the material is labeled, you cannot tell whether it contains asbestos simply by looking at it. If you suspect that it is an asbestos-containing material, you should treat the material as asbestos until you can contact a Licensed Asbestos Inspector to have the material sampled, analyzed, and identified.
What if I have asbestos in my home, office, or building?
- If the asbestos-containing material is still in good condition, it is best to leave it alone. Generally, material in good condition will not release asbestos fibers. Check the area of concern regularly for signs of wear or damage such as tears, abrasions, or water damage. Damaged materials may release asbestos fibers which cause health concerns.
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