What is it?
Asbestos is the name given to a group of naturally occurring minerals. Asbestos differs from other minerals, in that it forms long thin fibers instead of crystals. There are six different minerals, divided into two groups, included in the asbestos family. The two groups are Serpentine and Amphibole, and are based on the differences of their crystalline structure. Serpentine forms a sheet or layered structure. Amphiboles form a chain-like structure. Asbestos fibers are naturally occurring and stay airborne very well.
Where do you find Asbestos?
Asbestos is used in many products because of their high tensile strength, flexibility, and resistance to chemical and thermal breakdown. Asbestos is used in insulation, fireproofing materials, automotive brakes, cement and wallboard materials, floor tiles and roofing materials.
The federal government declared a moratorium on asbestos production in the early 1970’s. Installation of these products continued into the early 1980’s.
What kinds of health effects does Asbestos cause?
Scientists have demonstrated the links between exposure to asbestos and four serious diseases: lung cancer, mesothelioma, asbestosis, and digestive system cancers.
Lung cancer: Asbestos-exposed people are significantly more likely that non-exposed people to develop lung cancer. Asbestos and cigarettes are a particularly deadly combination. If a person exposed to asbestos also smokes, his or her chance of getting lung cancer increases dramatically. If you are a smoker and you have been exposed to asbestos, giving up smoking will significantly decrease your risk of contracting lung cancer.
Mesothelioma: Mesothelioma is a cancer of the lining of the lungs or of the abdominal cavity. This is a rare cancer that is almost always associated with asbestos exposure. Mesothelioma can occur after very brief or very low exposures to asbestos. Cases of mesothelioma have occurred in spouses and children of asbestos workers whose only exposures were from the dust brought home on the clothing of family members who worked with asbestos.
Asbestosis: Asbestosis is a scarring of the lung tissue that can lead to shortness of breath. A person with a severe case of asbestosis can barely get enough oxygen to breathe. Sometimes the scarring may spread so far through the lungs that it causes death. These severe cases are usually caused by very high exposures.
Digestive system cancers: Increases in stomach, colon, rectal, and other digestive system cancers have been observed in asbestos-exposed workers.