C-FERST Issue Profile: Asbestos
Asbestos is a mineral fiber that occurs naturally in the environment. For many years, the fiber was used in a wide range of manufactured goods including roofing shingles, ceiling and floor tiles, heat-resistant fabrics, packaging, gaskets, and friction products such as automobile clutches, brakes, and transmission parts. In 1989, EPA banned all new uses of asbestos, however uses established before this date are still allowed.
EPA has established regulations requiring school systems to inspect for damaged asbestos and eliminate or reduce the exposure by removing the asbestos or covering it up. EPA regulates the release of asbestos from factories and during building demolition or renovation to prevent asbestos from getting into the environment.
EPA has classified asbestos as a human carcinogen. Asbestos fibers can be released into the air by disturbing the asbestos-containing material during product use, demolition work, building or home maintenance and repair. In general, exposure only occurs when the asbestos-containing material is disturbed or damaged in some way, releasing particles and fibers into the air. Asbestos can also be released into water from erosion of natural deposits, corrosion from asbestos-cement pipes, and disintegration of asbestos roofing materials with subsequent transport into sewers.
Long-term inhalation exposure to asbestos can result in the lung disease asbestosis. Cancer is also a major concern from asbestos exposure, as inhalation exposure can cause lung cancer and mesothelioma, and possibly gastrointestinal cancers in humans. No studies have been found on the short-term toxicity of asbestos in animals or humans.
The links below provide more information about asbestos.