What is Asbestos?Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral found all over the world. Major sources for asbestos mining are found in China, Russia, and Kazakhstan. In the past, the mineral was also mined across North America. There are six different types of this toxic substance: crocidolite, amosite, anthophyllite, tremolite, actinolite, and chrysotile. Despite its deadly attributes, it is extremely useful. It’s fibers are soft and pliable, making it resistant to corrosion, heat, and electricity. These properties make it a great insulator, and so it’s been used as a strengthening agent in cement, vinyl flooring, plastics, paper, cloth, and more.
The Dangers of AsbestosThey present little danger when the fibers are safely trapped inside non-friable materials, like hard flooring tiles. Non-friable materials are those that do not crumble easily, so they stay embedded in the material rather than escaping into the air. The mineral only becomes dangerous in these materials when they are cut into, sanded down, or disturbed in a way that emits airborne fibers. Friable materials are another matter entirely. The mineral has historically been used in insulation and fireproofing and soundproofing materials, which crumble easily and release dangerous particles into the air continually. Unlike many other toxic substances, they don’t leave the body once they enter. That’s what makes it so deadly. Once inhaled or ingested, the fibers become trapped inside the lungs or the stomach and are impossible to remove. Exposure to them doesn’t manifest itself immediately. The health effects may take decades to develop, but they gradually become worse over time and cannot be reversed. Mesothelioma is a deadly cancer that develops almost exclusively from this type of exposure. Other dangers include:
- Other forms of cancer
- Lung disease
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease