Asbestos Dangers

Written by Jill Morrison
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Asbestos is dangerous because it is a toxic substance and a known carcinogen. It can be hazardous to health when asbestos fibers are inhaled or ingested through infected water sources. Building materials that contain asbestos are not always a hazard. If these materials are in good condition and are not disturbed, they do not generally pose a health risk. However, any asbestos-containing building materials that can be scraped, sanded, cracked, or broken can be very detrimental to the health of humans.

Potential Asbestos Dangers

There are two different types of asbestos products that can be found in buildings. The first type is called Regulated Asbestos-Containing Material (RACM). RACM is friable, which means it can be reduced to powder or crumbled by hand pressure. This type of asbestos is the most dangerous because the dust can be inhaled easily and may cause serious health problems. Examples of RACM include duct wrap, acoustic tiles, spray acoustic ceilings, linoleum paper backing, roofing felt, joint compound, thermal insulation on pipes, and wallboard. Any of these materials should be regularly and carefully inspected for harmful asbestos.

The second type of asbestos is called Asbestos-Containing Material (ACM). ACM is non-friable so it is very strong and cannot be reduced to dust by hand pressure. Non-friable asbestos products are not regulated and are still being manufactured by some companies. Examples of ACM materials often include asphalt roofing shingles, vinyl floor tiles, and cement siding. Though ACM does not pose an immediate threat to health, it can become RACM if it is turned to dust during building demolition, repair, or remodeling. Therefore, all asbestos products have the potential to be hazardous to health.

When asbestos is inhaled, a variety of health problems and diseases may develop. Unfortunately, symptoms for these problems are not usually detected for many years following asbestos exposure. Diseases such as lung cancer, mesothelioma, or asbestosis can develop with prolonged exposure to asbestos. Those who suspect that they may have been exposed to asbestos should visit a doctor for a test and may also test samples of suspicious materials at certified laboratories.

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