Indoor Air Pollution: The Dangers of Asbestos

Asbestos is a mineral fiber of impure magnesium silicate minerals. Prior to the 1970s it was used in
a number of construction materials. It made a great fire retardant and insulator, especially around
hot items like furnaces and wood-burning stoves. But once it was identified that asbestos exposure
permanently and fatally damages the lungs, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Consumer
Product Safety Commission (CPSC) banned the use of most asbestos products.

In older homes, asbestos is most often found in shingles, millboard, pipe insulation, furnace insulation,
floor tiles, textured paints, soundproofing materials, and coating materials. Whenever these materials
are damaged, scraped, sawed, drilled, cut, or otherwise impacted, they can release asbestos fibers into
the air, creating deadly indoor air pollution.

If asbestos exposure occurs, no immediate symptoms will be noticeable. But the fibers lodge inside the
lungs and begin to damage the delicate tissue. The fibers cause irreversible scarring of the lung tissue
that can be fatal. Eventually chest and lung cancer and/or lung diseases are the result. Mesothelioma
is a cancer of the lining of the chest and of the abdominal cavity. Asbestosis is a disease in which the
lungs become excessively scarred with fibrous tissue, due to the asbestos. These two and lung cancer
are the three major killers of those exposed to asbestos on the job or at home.

Never underestimate the hazard posed by asbestos materials. The Office of Pollution Prevention and
Toxic’s
website has valuable information about asbestos contamination and
their hotline can guide you to asbestos programs, training for professionals, and other information:
202-554-1404.

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