Asbestos and Asbestos Health Effects
What is asbestos? – Asbestos is the name given to a number of naturally occurring, fibrous silicate minerals mined for their useful properties such as thermal insulation, chemical and thermal stability, and high tensile strength. The current Federal definition of asbestos is the asbestiform varieties of: Chrysotile (serpentine); crocidolite (riebeckite); amosite (cummingtonite/grunerite); anthophyllite; tremolite; and actinolite.
What are past and present uses of asbestos?
- Cement Pipes
- Laboratory Hoods/Table Tops
- Elevator Brake Shoes
- Cement Wallboard
- Laboratory Gloves
- HVAC Duct Insulation
- Cement Siding
- Fire Blankets
- Boiler Insulation
- Asphalt Floor Tile
- Fire Curtains
- Breaching Insulation
- Vinyl Floor Tile
- Elevator Equipment Panels
- Flexible Fabric Connections
- Vinyl Sheet Flooring
- Cooling Towers
- Flooring Backing Adhesives
- Pipe Insulation (corrugated air-cell, block, etc.)
- Construction Mastics (floor tile, carpet, ceiling tile, etc.)
- Wallboard Heating and Electrical Ducts
- Acoustical Plaster Joint Compounds
- Vinyl Wall Coverings
- Decorative Plaster Spackling Compounds
- High Temperature
- Textured Paints/Coatings
- Roofing Shingles
- Roofing Felt
- Ceiling Tiles and Lay-in Panels
- Base Flashing
- Thermal Paper Products
- Spray-Applied Insulation
- Fire Doors
- Electrical Cloth
- Blown-in Insulation
- Electrical Panel Partitions
- Fireproofing Materials
- Taping Compounds (thermal)
- Packing Materials (for wall/floor penetrations)
- Electric Wiring Insulation
Asbestos Ban and Phase Out – On July 12, 1989, EPA issued a final rule banning most asbestos-containing products. In 1991, this regulation was overturned by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans. As a result of the Court’s decision, the following specific asbestos-containing products remain banned: flooring felt, rollboard, and corrugated, commercial, or specialty paper. In addition, the regulation continues to ban the use of asbestos in products that have not historically contained asbestos, otherwise referred to as “new uses” of asbestos.
For more information regarding the ban and phase out of asbestos, visit: http://www.epa.gov/asbestos/pubs/ban.html.
What are the health effects of asbestos exposure? – Exposure to airborne friable asbestos may result in a potential health risk because persons breathing the air may breathe in asbestos fibers. Continued exposure can increase the amount of fibers that remain in the lung. Fibers embedded in lung tissue over time may cause serious lung diseases including: asbestosis, lung cancer, or mesothelioma.
- Asbestosis – Asbestosis is a serious, progressive, long-term non-cancer disease of the lungs. It is caused by inhaling asbestos fibers that irritate lung tissues and cause the tissues to scar. The scarring makes it hard for oxygen to get into the blood. Symptoms of asbestosis include shortness of breath and a dry, crackling sound in the lungs while inhaling. There is no effective treatment for asbestosis.
- Lung Cancer – Lung cancer causes the largest number of deaths related to asbestos exposure. People who work in the mining, milling, manufacturing of asbestos, and those who use asbestos and its products are more likely to develop lung cancer than the general population. The most common symptoms of lung cancer are coughing and a change in breathing. Other symptoms include shortness of breath, persistent chest pains, hoarseness, and anemia. People who have been exposed to asbestos and also are exposed to some other cancer-causing product, such as cigarette smoke, have a greater risk of developing lung cancer than people who have only been exposed to asbestos.
- Mesothelioma – Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer that is found in the thin lining (membrane) of the lung, chest, abdomen, and heart and almost all cases are linked to exposure to asbestos. This disease may not show up until many years after asbestos exposure. This is why great efforts are being made to prevent school children from being exposed.
If you feel you may have been exposed to airborne asbestos fibers, you should consider consulting a physician with expertise in pulmonary abnormalities.
* The information provided above is referenced from: http://www.epa.gov/asbestos/pubs/help.html