Asbestos is a mineral fiber found in rock and soil. It is found in several manufactured products and building materials because of its strength and high-heat tolerance. Even though exposure to asbestos has been proven to cause health problems, most uses are not banned in the U.S. For a list of banned products, visit the EPA’s website.
The most common sources of asbestos exposure:
- Workplace exposure in industries that mine, make or use asbestos products and those living near these industries, including: the construction industry (particularly building demolition and renovation activities); the manufacturing of asbestos products (such as textiles, friction products, insulation and other building materials) and auto repair industry (particularly automotive brake and clutch repair work)
- Deteriorating, damaged or disturbed asbestos-containing products such as insulation, fireproofing, acoustical materials and floor tiles
- According to the EPA, elevated concentrations of airborne asbestos can occur after asbestos-containing materials are disturbed by cutting, sanding or other remodeling activities. Improper attempts to remove these materials can release asbestos fibers into the air in homes, increasing asbestos levels and endangering people living in those homes.
Breathing high levels of asbestos fibers can lead to:
- An increased risk of lung cancer
- Mesothelioma (a cancer of the lining of the chest and the abdominal cavity)
- Asbestosis (condition that occurs where lungs become scarred with fibrous tissue)
Actions You Can Take
If you think there may be asbestos in your home it is best to leave it alone if it is intact. Any asbestos remediation work should be performed by a licensed specialist. Owners and residents must receive notification of asbestos when purchasing or leasing properties. Visit the EPA website to learn about asbestos programs in your state to address questions about requirements and regulations.