Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral formed of very strong fibers that are resistant to heat and corrosion. There are several kinds of asbestos. Individual asbestos fibers are so small and light that they cannot be seen with the naked eye and can easily become airborne.

Where Has Asbestos Been Used?

Asbestos has been used for a wide range of manufactured goods and building materials. The amount of asbestos in asbestos containing materials (ACM) varies from greater than 1% to 100%. Examples of products that might contain asbestos are:

  • Fireproofing and insulation in buildings
  • Insulation for pipes and boilers
  • Roofing shingles and tars
  • Plaster, wallboard and joint compound
  • Putties, caulks, paints, and cements
  • Floor and ceiling tiles
  • Friction products, such as clutch facings and brake linings in vehicles

You cannot tell whether a material contains asbestos by looking at it. A sample must be analyzed by a qualified laboratory.

What Are the Health Effects?

Breathing high levels of asbestos fibers can lead to an increased risk of lung cancer, mesothelioma (a cancer of the chest and abdominal linings) and asbestosis (irreversible lung scarring that can be fatal). The risk of lung cancer and mesothelioma increases with the number of fibers inhaled. Most people with asbestos-related diseases were exposed to high concentrations on the job.