What is Asbestos?
Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that has been found throughout the world. It was once called the “magic mineral” because of its seemingly magical properties. These properties include: it is almost impossible to set it on fire (incombustible), it is nearly impossible to corrode (anti-corrosive), and it is actually composed of fibers so that it can be woven into other materials. It is also relatively inexpensive because it can be taken out of the ground and does not have to be synthesized in a factory.
All these properties pale in comparison to the fact that asbestos is toxic and cancer causing for human beings. Asbestos causes mesothelioma and other asbestos related diseases.
Types of Asbestos
There are different kinds of asbestos. The most common forms are:
- “White” Asbestos (Chrysotile)
- “Brown Asbestos (Amosite)
- “Blue” Asbestos (Riebeckite)
“White” asbestos or Chrysotile which is obtained from serpentine rocks. Chrysotile is the type most often used in industry. It is more flexible than other types of asbestos and can be spun and woven into fabric. This is the kind of asbestos used in theatre curtains and firefighters’ suits.
“Brown” asbestos or Amosite is a trade name for the amphiboles belonging to the Cummingtonite – Grunerite solid solution series, commonly from Africa.
“Blue” asbestos or Riebeckite is also known under the name of Crocidolite. Blue asbestos is commonly thought of as the most dangerous type of asbestos.
Where is Asbestos Found?
Asbestos was used in thousands of industrial, commercial, construction, automotive and consumer products. The list of asbestos containing products is very long.
In the United States, chrysotile has been the most commonly used type of asbestos. Chrysotile asbestos was often present in a wide variety of materials, including but not limited to:
- sheetrock taping
- mud and texture coats
- vinyl floor tiles, sheeting, adhesives and ceiling tiles
- plasters and stuccos
- roofing tars, felts, siding, and shingles
- “transite” panels, siding, countertops, and pipes
- acoustical ceilings
- brake pads and shoes
- clutch plates
- stage curtains
- fire blankets
- interior fire doors
- fireproof clothing for firefighters
- refractory cements and papers
Does Asbestos Cause Mesothelioma?
Asbestos has been classified as a known human carcinogen (a substance that causes cancer) by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the EPA, and the International Agency for Research on Cancer. A leading cause of mesothelioma is asbestos exposure.
How Long After Exposure to Asbestos Do Mesothelioma Symptoms Occur?
Generally, those who develop asbestos-related diseases show no signs of illness for a long time after their first exposure. It can take from 10 to 40 years or more for symptoms of an asbestos-related condition to appear.
How Much Asbestos Exposure is Dangerous?
Although it is clear that health risks from asbestos exposure increase with heavier exposure and longer exposure time, investigators have found asbestos-related diseases in individuals with only brief exposures.
Is Asbestos Still Legal?
In 1989 the EPA passed the Asbestos Ban and Phase Out Rule which was subsequently overturned in the case of Corrosion Proof Fittings v. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 1991. This ruling leaves many consumer products that can still legally contain trace amounts of asbestos.