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Veterans Resources

Firefighters and Asbestos



Introduction to Asbestos

Asbestos was commonly used in fireproofing, insulation and building materials for millions of homes and businesses throughout the United States and the world. The durability, heat resistance, and strength of asbestos fibers resulted in its widespread use and as a result it is still present in many homes, schools and businesses.

Asbestos containing materials do not pose a significant health risk if they are in good condition but as the materials decay from time, activity and the elements, fibers can begin to flake off and linger in the air.

If these fibers are inhaled they can become trapped in the lungs and have the potential to cause health problems depending on the duration and amount of exposure. One of these conditions, mesothelioma is an often fatal cancer caused by asbestos exposure.

Given the health risks of asbestos, our goal is to put together an informative and factual guide that will give you a better understanding of the material.

History and Modern Use

Asbestos has been used since the time of the ancient Egyptians but the Romans were the first civilization to suspect that exposure to the material created health problems. Unfortunately this could not be verified until the early 20th century and despite the fact it is a known carcinogen, asbestos continues to be used around the world especially in developing nations.

Though its use has been largely phased out from western nations, asbestos claims nearly 2500 lives in the United States each year. Worldwide it kills more than 10,000 people per year with deaths expected to peak within the next decade.

Next: Asbestos Exposure at Work