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What is asbestos?  Asbestos is a mineral. It is mined in much the same way that other minerals such as iron, lead, and copper are.  There are many varieties of asbestos:  the three most common are chrysotile, amosite, and crocidolite.

Why has asbestos been so widely used?  Asbestos appealed to manufacturers and builders for a variety of reasons.  It is strong yet flexible, and it will not burn.  It conducts electricity poorly, but insulates effectively.

How many products contain asbestos?  One study estimated that 3,000 different types of commercial products contained asbestos.  Many older plastics, paper products, brake linings, floor tiles and textile products contain asbestos, as do many heavy industrial products such as sealants, cement pipe, cement sheets, and insulation.

How long has asbestos been in use?  Asbestos was first used in the United States in the early 1900’s, to insulate steam engines.  But until the early 1940’s, asbestos was not used extensively.  However, after World War II, and for the next thirty years, people who constructed and renovated schools and other public buildings used asbestos and asbestos-containing materials (ACM) extensively.  They used ACM primarily to fireproof, insulate, soundproof, and decorate.  The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that there are asbestos containing materials in most of the nation’s approximately 107,000 primary and secondary schools and 933,000 public and commercial buildings.

How are people exposed to asbestos?  When asbestos fibers are in the air, people may inhale them.  Because asbestos fibers are small and light, they can stay in the air for a long time.

How can asbestos be identified?  While it is often possible to “suspect” that a material or product is/or contains asbestos by visual determination, actual determinations can only be made by instrumental analysis.  Until a product is tested, it is best to assume that the product contains asbestos, unless the label or the manufacturer verifies that it does not.

Click Here for a downloadable list of items that may be in your home that contain asbestos.


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