Asbestos is classified as a known human carcinogen by multiple government agencies, including the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Asbestos is most hazardous when it is friable (which means when the asbestos is easily crumbled by your hand, releasing your fibers into the air). Sprayed on asbestos insulation is highly friable where asbestos floor tile is not.
When exposed to asbestos fibers, it can cause severe diseases such as lung cancer or mesothelioma (a rare and very aggressive form of cancer which affects the outer lining of the lungs).
That being said… asbestos is only dangerous when the airborne fibers are inhaled or ingested. Most of the fibers will become trapped in the mucous membranes of the nose and throat where they can be removed, but some will pass into your lungs or digestive tract where they will remain trapped. Because these fibers are highly toxic, it’s a good chance that they will cause severe inflammation and tissue scarring overtime which will eventually lead to the development of a serious disease occurring within ten to fifty years after the first exposure.
Ceiling tiles, floor tiles, undamaged cabinet tops, shingles, fire doors, siding shingles, etc. do not release asbestos fibers unless they are disturbed or damaged in some way (ie. drilled or broken).
Damage and/or deterioration will increase the friability of asbestos-containing materials. Water damage, continual vibration, aging, and physical impact such as drilling, grinding, buffing, cutting, sawing, or striking can break the materials down making them more friable.
There are three things that seem to determine your likelihood of developing one of these asbestos related diseases.
1. The Amount and Duration: The more exposure you have the more fibers will enter your body. There is no safe amount of asbestos to be exposed to, but people who are exposed more frequently over a long period of time are at higher risk.
2. Smoking or Not Smoking: If you smoke and are exposed to asbestos, you are more likely to develop lung cancer.
3. Age: There are cases of mesothelioma that has occurred in children of asbestos workers. The younger the affected individual is, the more likely they are to develop this disease.
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