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What Exactly Is Asbestos?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “asbestos” is a commercial term for six naturally occurring fibrous minerals. These minerals have qualities that make them ideal for certain commercial products. Asbestos is resistant to chemical and thermal degradation. It is also fire proof and basically indestructible. As a result, it has been used in insulation and fireproofing materials as well as in automotive brakes and textiles.

When asbestos is handled, damaged, or disturbed, it breaks down into small particles that are easily inhaled. It has long been known that asbestos poses a significant health risk and that people exposed to asbestos at work develop certain diseases such as mesothelioma, lung cancer, other cancers and asbestosis.

Even after many companies became aware of the dangers of asbestos, they did not warn the public of the dangers. Workers continued inhaling asbestos dust. Their family members were exposed as well, since workers came home carrying the deadly fibers on their clothes.

There are many ways a person can be exposed to asbestos:

  • People are usually exposed to asbestos by inhaling fibers, and this occurs in a variety of ways:
    • During mining and processing asbestos
    • Manufacturing asbestos-containing products or installing asbestos insulation
    • Removing old asbestos products
    • Installing or applying new asbestos products
    • Touching, washing or otherwise coming into contact with asbestos dust on clothing
  • Asbestos fibers may also be swallowed, when a person:
    • Consumes tainted food and drink
    • Swallows fibers in their saliva after they have coughed
    • Breathes through their mouth
    • Eats while in an area in which asbestos dust is present

According to the World Health Organization, all forms of asbestos are carcinogenic to humans, and an average of 30 Americans die from asbestos-caused diseases every day.

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