Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral fiber that people have been using throughout history for things like candle wicks, burial shrouds and fireproof pottery. Its popularity exploded during the industrial revolution because of its fire-resistant properties. Here are some facts about asbestos.
1. Types of Asbestos
There are six types of asbestos, which are all fragile fibrous minerals. They all have fire-resistant properties and are easy to break and inhale. Chrysotile and Amosite asbestos were the most commonly used in the United States. These are also considered the most dangerous types and the ones that most people have a risk of coming into contact with.
2. Common Places to Find Asbestos
Asbestos has been used in all kinds of building materials due to its fire-resistance. Shingles, hot-water pipes, oil and coal furnaces, and other places near extremely hot temperatures or an ignition source. You’re also likely to find asbestos in products that contain a mineral called vermiculite, like insulation. This is because asbestos is a frequent contaminant in vermiculite deposits.
While some uses of asbestos are now banned, like sealants and vinyl tiling and fabrics, you can still encounter a lot of asbestos in the United States today. It’s still in limited use for vehicle brake lines, and can still be found in the insulation of older buildings.
3. A Known Carcinogen
Asbestos causes mesothelioma, a rare but deadly cancer. All types of asbestos cause cancer. The fibers of asbestos are so fine and fragile that when they’re disturbed they easily break apart and enter the air. Once the fibers are airborne, anyone in close proximity can breathe them in. The fibers damage the tissues and cells in the respiratory system, which can eventually lead to mesothelioma.
Because asbestos exposure is the only known cause of mesothelioma, organizations like the Mesothelioma Justice Network help victims and their families seek aid in the form of funding and compensation, finding treatment and litigation.
4. Other Asbestos-related Diseases
Mesothelioma is probably the most well-known asbestos-related disease, but there are others. Ovarian and laryngeal cancers can also develop. So can asbestosis, a kind of lung fibrosis, and pleural plaque, an inflammatory immune response to asbestos exposure. Many of these diseases result from asbestos exposure in the workplace. In some cases, family members have been exposed because someone who worked around asbestos accidentally carried it home on his or her clothing.
Asbestos has had many uses throughout history, but it is also a very dangerous mineral and the EPA closely monitors and regulates its usage now.