What Is Asbestos?

What exactly is asbestos? Why are people so against it? And why does asbestos continue to exist in products that you would never suspect it could be found in?

Asbestos is defined as a set of 6 naturally occurring minerals that separate into thin, strong fibers. Asbestos falls under the amphibole group if asbestos minerals and the serpentine group if asbestos minerals. Both sets can cause serious health problems when inhaled over long periods of time.

It was once thought that asbestos was the answer to building America. An asbestos fireproofing company, Johns-Manville, built an asbestos plant in Manville, New Jersey. The owners believed asbestos could be used not only for insulation but also as a glue to bind materials together. It would be the perfect substance to create all sorts of items ranging from asbestos cement shingles or corrugated asbestos sheets for roofs to asbestos paper and brake pads.

The US’s mass production of these everyday items led to many industries using asbestos-containing products without considering the health risks they may pose on their consumers.

Asbestos was used in the construction industry because it is fireproof and resistant to chemicals. It also has insulation properties which made asbestos popular for use in homes and buildings all over the United States. Unfortunately, asbestos-containing products proved to be more harmful than helpful when asbestos fibers were inhaled or ingested through contaminated air and dust. When asbestos fibers are broken down into smaller pieces, they become easily breathable and can lodge themselves in a person’s lungs or abdomen, causing serious damage to their health over time.  

Asbestos is known to cause pleural plaques, asbestos cancer, lung cancer and even mesothelioma which is a rare type of cancer that can appear anywhere from years after asbestos exposure occurs.

In order to prevent the harmful effects caused from asbestos inhalation or ingestion, it is extremely important that everyone know how to identify asbestos-containing products so they can avoid them altogether.  

Asbestos requires professional handling during its removal process because asbestos fibers can easily become airborne if not handled properly with things like face masks and ventilating equipment. The proper removal of asbestos is not only necessary to protect asbestos workers, but also the surrounding environment and public health.