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Lung Cancer and Mesothelioma Information



Types of Lung Cancer

Asbestos Lung Cancer

Asbestos Background and Use

Asbestos is a mineral that is mined much like other minerals, such as iron, lead, and copper, are. There are many varieties of asbestos: the three most common are chrysotile asbestos, amosite asbestos, and crocidolite asbestos. Unlike most minerals, which turn into dust particles when crushed, asbestos breaks up into fine fibers that are too small to be seen by the human eye. Often, individual asbestos fibers are mixed with a material that binds them together, producing an asbestos containing material (ACM).

Kentile asbestos floorsAsbestos was first used in the United States in the early 1900's, to insulate steam engines. After World War II, and for the next thirty years, people who constructed and renovated schools and other public buildings used asbestos and asbestos-containing materials (ACM) extensively. ACM's were used primarily to fireproof, insulate, soundproof, and decorate buildings. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates there are ACM's in most of the nation's approximately 107,000 primary and secondary schools, and 733,000 public and commercial buildings.

asbestos John ManvilleOne study estimated that 3,000 different types of commercial products once contained asbestos. The amount of asbestos in each product varied from as little as one percent to as much as 100 percent. Many older plastics, paper products, brake linings, floor tiles and textile products contain asbestos; as do many heavy industrial products such as sealants, cement pipe, cement sheets, and insulation. The law now prohibits the manufacture, processing, and importation of most asbestos products in the United States.

Capco asbestosManufacturers and builders found asbestos useful for a variety of reasons. It is strong yet flexible, and it will not burn. It conducts electricity poorly, and insulates effectively. Asbestos also resists corrosion. Few other available substances have all of these qualities.

When asbestos fibers are in the air, people may inhale them. Because asbestos fibers are small and light, they can stay in the air for a long time, and are not easily detected. People whose work brings them into contact with asbestos -- workers who renovate buildings with asbestos in them, for example -- may inhale fibers that are in the air and this is called occupational asbestos exposure. Workers' families may inhale asbestos fibers released by clothes that have been in contact with ACM and this is called paraoccupational exposure to asbestos.

Johns-Manville asbestosPeople who live or work near asbestos- related operations may inhale asbestos fibers that have been released into the air by the operations and this is called neighborhood exposure. Those who are downwind from an asbestos plant could be at risk even many miles away if the fibers can be blown on the wind to their area.

Find out more about Asbestos
Asbestos and Smoking Asbestos Background and Use
Asbestos Product List  


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