Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that appears in a fibrous and fluffy form when separated from rock in the asbestos mining process. Its fibers are typically bound together with other minerals to form an indestructible package when undisturbed. The term asbestos is actually a name for a group of minerals that occur in a wide range of appearances. The only way to positively identify an asbestos fiber is through a microscope.
Asbestos was used in construction materials until 1978
Throughout the 1940’s, 1950’s and 1960’s asbestos was internationally manufactured for a variety of products. Although there was some evidence of a potential health risk, extensive research was not completed until the late 1960’s – nearly 50 years after asbestos was first used in construction building materials. It was used through the late 1970’s for the following reasons:
• Protection from fire
• Absorption of heat from friction
• High tensile strength as a reinforcing material
• Resistance to corrosion
• Insulation from heat and cold
• Insulation from noise
By 1978, the EPA had instituted a ban on virtually all asbestos-containing construction materials. Presently in California, materials that contain more that one-tenth percent of asbestos are considered an asbestos-containing product and must be handled accordingly.
Asbestos is linked to several diseases
Asbestos fibers are microscopically small. Those which seem to be visible to the naked eye are actually threads of thousands of fibers – each hundreds of times smaller than a human hair. They are not readily trapped by mucous or nose hairs, and therefore can easily enter the lungs. Once in the lungs, asbestos fibers may lodge there and remain for life. Since the lung tissue is so delicate, and the sharp fibers are so indestructible, the body attempts to isolate them by forming a shell of scar tissue around them. These scars grow and accumulate and the lungs lose their ability to transfer oxygen into the bloodstream.
Asbestos is contained in thousands of products
In many homes throughout Southern California that were built before 1978 asbestos is likely to be present in one or more forms. In fact, it can be found in over 3,000 products ranging from household appliances to construction building materials.