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Firefighters and Asbestos


Frequently Asked Questions About Asbestos

We've developed a list of common questions about asbestos to make sure that all members of the community have an accurate understanding of the material and its risks.

Q: Why should I be concerned about asbestos?
A: Asbestos is present in more than 3600 products, many of which were used to construct homes, schools, and businesses. One study claims that up to 80 percent of buildings in the United States contain some quantity of asbestos. The material's strength, insulating capabilities, and resistance to heat lended it to many consumer products including brake pads, gloves and ironing board covers.

The danger is that over time these products could release asbestos fibers which could then be inhaled. Over time, repeated exposure to asbestos fibers could lead to serious health problems.

Q: How can I tell if a material in my home contains asbestos?
A: It can be difficult to distinguish whether a material contains asbestos because it was often an additive and was rarely used by itself. If you live in an older home and believe it may contain asbestos, we advise that you contact a residential asbestos inspection company. You should never try to take samples of materials or remove suspected asbestos containing materials on your own because you create an unnecessary exposure risk. Asbestos inspection companies will be able to take material samples for you, analyze them and advise you if further actions need to be taken.

Q: If I inhale a single asbestos fiber can I get cancer?
A: Mesothelioma, a cancer associated with asbestos exposure is often the result of prolonged exposure or intense exposure for a short period. Asbestos fibers are naturally found in air samples across the world in very low levels and we breathe them everyday. The odds of developing mesothelioma through background exposure are significantly less compared to people who were often in contact with the material including Navy veterans, shipbuilders, boilermakers, maintenance personnel and electrical workers.

Q: If I was exposed to asbestos what's the likelihood I can get cancer?
A: The development of asbestos related diseases is not an exact science. The probability of developing a disease like mesothelioma is based on a number of factors. If you have been exposed to asbestos and believe that it has affected your health, we advise you to compare your symptoms to the ones found on our mesothelioma symptoms page. If you are experiencing problems, we advise you to see a doctor.

Q: I thought the United States banned asbestos?
A: The EPA initially discussed a ban in 1979 when it sought to regulate asbestos but after a decade of studies and legal wrangling it was ultimately unable to bring the material under regulation. In that time however, public awareness of the risks of asbestos drove many companies to develop alternatives but asbestos can still be found in brake pads and even children's toys.

We invite you to download our Asbestos Guide. This PDF is a great reference for asbestos related information and makes a great addition to any community website.

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