Asbestos is a naturally occurring fibrous mineral which was used for many years in commercial and industrial setting and can also be found in many consumer products. Asbestos was used due to its ability to resist heat, fire and electricity. Although the use of asbestos containing materials has been narrowed over the past decades there are still many materials in older homes, public building and schools which contain asbestos. Asbestos can be extremely hazardous when disturbed, easily be in inhaled or ingested when airborne and is a concern for many health-related issued including mesothelioma, lung cancer and Asbestosis. Types of asbestos are classified into two families, serpentine and amphibole asbestos. Serpentine asbestos is distinguished by its curly fibers and accounts for most of the asbestos containing materials used while amphibole asbestos has a more needle like fiber and is considered more dangerous due to less exposure leading to health-related issues.
The microscopic fibers that asbestos is made up of can easily become airborne when disturbed and inhaled/ingested. Because of the shape of the fibers, the particles cling to areas of the respiratory system and lung tissue and cannot be broken down or removed by the immune system due to their durability causing scarring and inflammation which can eventually result in tumor growth. Health-related conditions caused by exposure to asbestos can take 10-50 years to develop making them hard to diagnosis in early stages.
Asbestos can be found in both commercial and residential settings. Asbestos containing materials were frequently used in building materials, insulation and electrical products in homes built preceding to 1980. Common products which have been found to contain asbestos are insulation, construction materials, adhesives, joint compound, plaster, popcorn ceiling texture, boiler insulation wraps, vinyl or linoleum floor/ceiling tiles and mastics amongst many other products.
Asbestos that is left undisturbed or is contained is often considered safe. However, if asbestos containing materials are damaged from water intrusion, natural disaster, renovation projects or simply old age, it should not be attempted to be handled or remove unless performed by a licensed asbestos abatement company. The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) and OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) have laws in place detailing the process of removing and disposing of asbestos containing materials to eliminate exposure to the abatement technicians and general public. If a building or home is suspected to have materials containing asbestos, the owner of the structure should consult with an asbestos abatement professional prior to any construction, renovation or demolition services being performed.