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What Is Asbestos?

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Mesothelioma Definitions

July 6, 2008

What Is Asbestos?

According to the Asbestos Network, asbestos actually refers toseveral naturally occurring minerals. These minerals have beenused in commercial products to increase strength andflexibility. The Asbestos Network claims that these minerals area mix of metals, silicon, oxygen, and hydrogen. Asbestos, likecoal or gold is mined. Some of the countries that mine asbestos include the United States, Canada, South America and the former Soviet Union.

Types of Asbestos

Asbestos is not just one substance; in fact it can be dividedinto several different types, and these types can be dividedinto two basic groups. These two groups are serpentine andamphibole. Environmental Health and Safety claims that theserpentine group only contains one member: chrysotile. This typeof asbestos is the most common form found in buildings and isalso known as “white asbestos.”

Both the Asbestos Network and Environmental Health and Safetylist five different types of asbestos within the amphibolegroup. These five include amosite, crocidolite, anthophyllite,tremolite, and actinolite. Amosite is the second most prevalenttype found in building materials and is also referred to as“brown asbestos.” Crocidolite, “blue asbestos,” is found instructures where the materials need to be safe from hightemperatures. The final three, anthyphyllite, tremolite, andactinolite, are rarely found.

Problems Related to Asbestos

The Asbestos Network explains that contact with asbestos cancause diseases such as asbestos lung cancer and mesothelioma.The fibrous nature of asbestos causes much of the problem. Thefibers may get caught in the lungs and create lung damage. Or,they may even be swallowed and become lodged in membranes of thegastrointestinal track, according to the Asbestos Network.Again, this could lead to cancer of the lungs or of the GItract. So while it may be thought that the lungs are the onlyplace that can be damaged, it is other parts of the body can benegatively affected by asbestos.

Who is at Risk?

According to the Asbestos Network, the “dose” of asbestos thata person is exposed to equals the combination of theconcentration, or the amount of asbestos in the air, and theduration, or the length of time that a person is exposed toasbestos. The more asbestos inhaled, the greater the chance ofdamage to lungs or other internal organs. Also, the Network saysthat cigarette smoking increases the likelihood of contractingan asbestos disease as it decreases the general health of thelungs. The Asbestos Network also lists several occupations thatmay be more likely to suffer from asbestos created diseases.These occupations include construction work, ship building,railroad working and automobile engineers.

How To Avoid It

There are several things that those who work around asbestoscan do to limit their contact with the cancer causing fibers.The American Lung Association of Georgia insists on no eating ordrinking while you are working. The Association also urgesworkers not to smoke and to follow proper guidelines whenhandling asbestos. Employers that place their employees inasbestos filled areas should have the employees properly trainedon how to handle the substance, as well as how to avoidinteracting with it.

About the Author: Robert Michael is a writer for ABEMesothelioma which is an excellent place to find mesotheliomalinks, resources and articles. For more information go to:

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