Researchers in the United States started recognizing the dangers of asbestos in the early 20th century. Still many major industries continued to use asbestos to create structures and goods throughout the 20th century, hitting its peak in the U.S. from 1940 to 1975. Though the Environmental Protection Agency banned products containing asbestos in 1989, most of this ban was lifted in 1991. The United States stopped producing asbestos in 2002, but it still imports approximately 3,000 tons per year. This may cause you to wonder, is asbestos still something to worry about in 2016?
What You Need to Know About Asbestos
Many people are not aware that asbestos is still being used in the United States as most commercial uses of asbestos are still allowed. Here’s what you need to know about asbestos and whether or not it still poses a threat to you and your family.
What is Asbestos?
Asbestos is a group of minerals that are made up of long, thin fibers, which cannot be seen by the naked eye. These minerals occur naturally in six different forms, mostly in underground rock. Asbestos is a highly durable material that is resistant to heat, fire, and chemical damage. The material works well in insulation because it does not corrode or conduct electricity. For these reasons, asbestos has been used historically in commercial and industrial products.
Why Asbestos is Dangerous
Long-term exposure to asbestos can cause a variety of diseases, including lung cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestosis. According to the Mesothelioma Group, researchers estimate that 10 million people will die from these and other asbestos-related diseases by the year 2030. Those who are exposed to asbestos in large quantities over a long period of time are more likely to develop these diseases than those who are only exposed once to a small amount. However, experts agree that no amount of exposure is safe.
Is Asbestos Still a Threat in 2016?
Most commercial uses of asbestos are still allowed. Some products that may contain asbestos include disk brake pads, drum brake linings, roofing felt, cement pipe, automatic transmission components, and millboard. Most asbestos exposure occurs on the job, and some individuals are more at risk than others including veterans, miners, construction workers, auto workers, fire fighters, and realtors. Some teachers and students are also at risk as schools built before the 1980s can also contain asbestos.
What You Can Do to Reduce Exposure to Asbestos
Since asbestos is invisible to the naked eye, you can’t visually confirm that your home or a building contains asbestos. The EPA’s policy is to keep remaining asbestos intact because the material poses more of a threat once it is disturbed. However, if you have an older home that you are remodeling or you are repairing building damage like drywall or insulation, it is recommended that you contact an asbestos-removal professional who can identify contaminated materials and remove them as well as conduct air quality tests.