What is Asbestos?


asbestos lung cancerAsbestos is a mineral that can be found in the ground at various places throughout the earth.  This mineral is very different from other rocks. For example, it is made of fibers and it is almost impossible to set on fire.  These qualities has made it very popular throughout the ages.

History of Asbestos

Asbestos was used by ancient peoples including the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans. It is believed that Romans wove asbestos fibers into tablecloths and napkins that could be cleaned by just throwing them into a fire.

How Dangerous is Asbestos?

According to statistics, one person dies of cancer every hour who has been exposed to asbestos while at work.  It is also estimated that over 190,000 wives and children of asbestos workers will get sick from being exposed to asbestos from their husband’s or father’s dirty work clothes.

What Are the Types of Asbestos?

There are three main types:

Chrysotile – the most widely used types of asbestos fibers. Chrysotile fibers are white and flexible.

Tremolite – the fibers are very sharp and range in color from milky white to a dark green. They are sharp fibers that are easy to inhale and ingest, making them one of the most dangerous kinds of asbestos.

Amosite – after chrysotile asbestos, amosite is the second most common type of asbestos found in buildings and different products.

What Occupations often had asbestos exposure?

Many people working in industrial occupations had asbestos exposure.  For example, if you worked in any of these places before the late 1970’s you may have been exposed to asbestos:

  • Factory/manufacturing
  • Refinery
  • Chemical plants
  • Paper mills
  • Shipyards
  • Steel mills

What Products Contained Asbestos?

Asbestos can be found in many places and products manufactured up to the late 1970’s and sometimes beyond.  Here are some examples:

  • Sprayed coatings on ceilings, walls, beams and columns
  • Asbestos cement water tank
  • Insulation
  • Lagging on boilers and pipes
  • Ceiling tiles
  • Fire doors
  • Asbestos rope seals, gaskets and paper
  • Vinyl floor tiles
  • Boilers
  • Textured decorating coatings on walls and ceilings
  • Roofs
  • Asbestos cement gutters and downpipes
  • Clutch, brake, and transmission components
  • Conduits for electrical wire
  • Corrosive chemical containers
  • Electric motor components
  • Heat-protective pads
  • Laboratory furniture
  • Paper products
  • Pipes and pipe covering
  • Roofing products
  • Sealants and coatings
  • Insulation products
  • Textiles (including curtains)
  • Caulking and joint compound
  • Ceiling and floor tiles
  • Heat resistant fabrics
  • Insulation used to cover furnaces and hot water and steam pipes
  • Roofing shingles
  • Siding shingles
  • Textured paints and patching compounds used on wall and ceilings
  • Vermiculite in potting soil and Vermiculite home insulation

Does Asbestos Cause Lung Cancer?

Asbestos has been classified as a known human carcinogen (a substance that causes cancer in people) by various governmental and international agencies such as the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the EPA, and the International Agency for Research on Cancer. The association between asbestos and lung cancer goes way back to the first report published in 1935.

How Long After Exposure to Asbestos Do Lung Cancer Symptoms Occur?

People who develop asbestos-related diseases like lung cancer may show no signs of illness for a long time after their first exposure to asbestos. Many decades can pass from asbestos exposure to a lung cancer diagnosis.

How Much Asbestos Exposure is Dangerous?

Lung cancer studies have shown that the more asbestos a person is exposed to, the greater their chances of being diagnosed with lung cancer.