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Frequently Asked Questions about Asbestos

asbestosasbestosAsbestos has been talked about as a valued commodity for centuries. Today, most discussions about asbestos are negative. This naturally occurring mineral was used for a variety of purposes on a global scale and many countries have felt its hazardous effects in one way or another.         

Some countries still mine asbestos and incorporate it into products, but most have implemented bans or strict uses of the toxic substance. Asbestos exposure has been linked to a number of often fatal conditions and people continue to be diagnosed because of the long latency period associated with asbestos-related symptoms.  

Asbestos 101

The following questions are some of the most frequently asked when it comes to asbestos:

What is asbestos?

Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that can be found in many parts of the world. It was mined, processed and mixed into thousands of products for a variety of uses. There are six different types of asbestos, including chrysotile, amosite, crocidolite, tremolite, anthophylite and actinolite.

Which products contained asbestos?

More than 5,000 products were made with asbestos throughout the 20th century. The majority of them was used by the construction industry and included products like roofing materials, cement, drywall, flooring and insulation. Another industry worthy of mentioning is the shipbuilding industry, which made use of more than 300 asbestos products.

Why was asbestos used?

Asbestos was highly valued for its ability to naturally insulate and fireproof materials. It was easy to mine and could be mixed with just about any material. Asbestos was also cheap and very durable.  

How does asbestos exposure occur?

Exposure can occur by inhaling or ingesting asbestos fibers once they are released from asbestos products or naturally occurring asbestos. Mining asbestos was a sure way to face exposure. Asbestos fibers can also easily become airborne when asbestos-containing materials are damaged. Once airborne, anyone in the vicinity can inhale them. Asbestos fibers can be ingested if they land on food or in someone’s drink.

What is secondary exposure?

Secondary asbestos exposure occurs when someone who works around asbestos brings it home on their skin or clothes where loved ones and friends can inhale the fibers. Washing work clothes was a primary source for secondary asbestos exposure.

What are some asbestos-related diseases?

The three most common asbestos-related diseases include lung cancer, asbestosis and mesothelioma. More than 4,000 asbestos-related lung cancer cases are diagnosed in the U.S. each year. Mesothelioma, a rare cancer almost exclusively caused by asbestos, is diagnosed in about 3,000 Americans on an annual basis.

Which occupations faced asbestos hazards?

Many occupations used asbestos on a regular basis, but the industries that have noticed the highest rates of asbestos-related disease include mining, shipbuilding, construction, manufacturing and automotive.

Additional questions concerning asbestos can be answered by visiting the Mesothelioma Center at


Bio: Jensen Whitmer has been writing for the Mesothelioma Center for more than three years and he has an interest in spreading awareness about the hazardous effects of asbestos exposure.