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Asbestos — Frequently Asked Questions

What is asbestos?

Asbestos is the name for a group of fibrous minerals that are mined and mixed into building materials. Because it is very resistant to heat and chemicals, it was commonly used in a wide range of building materials such as floor and ceiling tiles, coatings, texturing materials, and thermal insulation. Currently, asbestos is used only in products where a replacement materials has not been identified for manufacturing.

Is asbestos always a hazard?

If maintained in good condition, products made from asbestos may not produce an immediate hazard. However, if these products become damaged or disturbed, they may release particles that become airborne and inhaled by building occupants. That's when asbestos can begin to have adverse health effects.

What are the health risks of asbestos?

Asbestos exposure is often difficult to recognize, because there are no immediate symptoms such as coughing, sneezing, or itching. Therefore, a person exposed to asbestos may inhale the dangerous fibers over a long period of time with no awareness. The body cannot break down or eliminate these fibers. The fibers affect the lungs, causing a slow build-up of a scar-like tissue. This condition is called asbestosis.

Exposure to asbestos has been proven to cause lung cancer, a cancer of the lining of the chest and abdomen (mesothelioma), and gastrointestinal cancer.