What is Asbestos?

Asbestos is the generic name for 6 different naturally-occurring fibrous minerals.Asbestos has six primary sub-classifications: chrysotile, crocidolite, amosite, anthophyllite, tremolite, and actinolite. Among these, the most common are chrysotile and amosite asbestos.

Although asbestos fibers are microscopic in nature, they are extremely durable and resistant to fire and most chemical reactions and breakdowns. That's why its use for many years in a number of different commercial and industrial capacities.

The strength of asbestos, combined with its resistance to heat, allowed it to become the material of choice in a variety of products, including roofing shingles, floor tiles, ceiling materials, cement compounds, textile products, and automotive parts. Asbestos is now strictly regulated as exposure to this toxic mineral can now be directly and scientifically linked to a number of lung and respiratory health conditions.


When is asbestos a hazard?

Asbestos is a hazard to health when the fibers are disturbed and become airborne. This means that asbestos poses health risks only when fibres are present in the air and then people breathe them into the lungs. Fibres can be released into the air when asbestos-containing products break down. This release can happen through deterioration or when the material is cut or disturbed.

Thousands of people were exposed to asbestos in some capacity as a result of the mineral’s extensive use in domestic, commercial, and industrial products. There is no safe type of asbestos and no safe level of exposure. Nearly all those with exposure history are potentially at risk of serious respiratory health complications.


What are the health effects of asbestos?

Asbestos fibres are easily inhaled and carried into the lower regions of the lung where they can cause fibrotic lung disease and changes in the lining of the chest cavity. These diseases can lead to reduced respiratory function and death. Long-term inhalation of asbestos fibres also increases the risk of lung cancer and mesothelioma.

Heart enlargement can also occur as an indirect effect from the increased resistance of blood flow through the lungs.

There are three major lung conditions traced directly to asbestos exposure. These are lung cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestosis. Lung cancer risk, typically associated with tobacco use, is known to be exacerbated by exposure to asbestos. Symptoms include coughing, chest pain, and difficulty breathing.


What is mesothelioma & asbestosis?

Mesothelioma is a rare aggressive cancer of the lung and inner body’s cavity lining- a thin membrane known as the mesothelium. Mesothelioma is typically recognized as the most clearly attributable disease resulting from asbestos exposure. Mesothelioma originates in 3 locations. Pleural mesothelioma forms in the lining of the lungs and is the most common form of the disease. Peritoneal and pericardial mesothelioma are less common and form in the lining of the abdominal cavity and lining of the heart, respectively.

Asbestosis is a chronic lung disease characterized by a scarring of lung tissues, which leads to long-term breathing complications. The disease does not have a cure. It is caused exclusively by exposure to asbestos, but may not be diagnosed until decades after the exposure occurred.