Free Mesothelioma Information Packet

Asbestos FAQ

Asbestos Danger

What is asbestos?

Asbestos is a highly-fibrous, naturally-occurring mineral found in the ground. Asbestos can be found on just about every continent. Its exemplary heat- and fire-resistant properties have been recognized for hundreds of years.

Where is asbestos found?

Natural asbestos is found in the ground and is still mined in a few countries throughout the world, including Canada and Russia. Combined with other materials, it was used for decades in the manufacture of myriad insulation products and other products that required high heat resistance.

What does asbestos look like?

Asbestos fibers are long and needle-like, but you will usually find asbestos mixed with another material, such as cement, which may make it hard to identify. How can I identify it? It is very difficult to identify asbestos by sight. If you suspect that a material in your home contains asbestos, it is best to have it tested by a professional.

Is asbestos dangerous?

Yes, especially if it is damaged. If so, why? Damaged or old asbestos can easily crumble and the needle-like fibers can become airborne. It's easy to inhale these fibers. The fibers will lodge in the pleura (lining of the lungs) or other parts of your body and can cause scarring and other problems.

Where might I come into contact with asbestos?

Asbestos can be present in many products produced before the asbestos warnings of the 1970s, including insulation, drywall tape, gaskets, brake shoes, certain household products, and more. These may still be in your home or your workplace.

What kind of health problems does asbestos cause?

Asbestos can cause asbestosis - a scarring of the lungs, or mesothelioma - cancer of the pleura, peritoneum, or pericardium.

How many people have been affected by asbestos?

That's difficult to determine. In the United States alone, as many as 3,000 people each year die of mesothelioma. The rate is much highly in other countries.

Why is asbestos so widely used?

Asbestos was widely used for its heat- and fire-resistant properties. Today, it is banned in many countries (but not in the U.S.) and its use has decreased.

Who is most at risk for asbestos exposure?

Anyone who mined vermiculite or asbestos or who worked in industries where asbestos was widely used - like shipbuilding and construction - are those most likely to have been exposed to asbestos.

What kinds of treatments are available for asbestos-related illnesses?

Less serious asbestos-related diseases require breathing treatments such as bronchodilators to relieve shortness of breath caused by the scarring of the lungs. Mesothelioma is most often treated with radiation or chemotherapy.

How can I prevent being exposed to asbestos?

Be sure that you're not working with asbestos on the job and check your home for signs of asbestos.

What should I do if I think I've come into contact with asbestos?

Not everyone who comes into contact with asbestos develops an asbestos-related disease. However, if you've had prolonged contact, it's best to have regular check-ups and chest x-rays to determine the ongoing health of your lungs.

What kinds of products have asbestos in them?

It is believed that in decades past, up to 5,000 consumer products contained asbestos, including insulation products, drywall tape, gaskets, fertilizer, hair dryers, toasters, coffee pots, irons and ironing board covers, wood-burning stoves, electric blankets, and many more. You may still own some of these products.

What should I do if I think I have asbestos in my home?

Am I in danger? If you think you have asbestos in your home, you should call a licensed asbestos removal company to test your air quality. If the air quality is less than satisfactory, the asbestos should be removed. Usually, if the asbestos is not damaged and is left alone, it will not pose a health hazard.

What should I do with asbestos-containing waste?

Only certain dump sites accept asbestos waste. The waste should be removed by a licensed asbestos abatement company and disposed of properly.

How is asbestos related to mesothelioma?

Asbestos exposure is the only known cause of mesothelioma.

Are there current government regulations against the use of asbestos?

The U.S. has never issued an official ban on asbestos though a number of regulations are in place. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) can provide you with the specifics.

Last modified: December 28, 2010.