The term asbestos refers to several types of naturally occurring fibrous minerals. These fibers are resistant to heat, fire and chemicals and do not conduct electricity. It can be found in a variety of environments, from natural sources like serpentine rock to man-made sources like insulating materials such as thermal systems insulation and brake linings. Asbestos from either source can be a serious health concern if inhaled or ingested.
Asbestos containing materials become a health hazard once they are disturbed. Intact, asbestos fibers imbedded within construction materials, components, and rock are inert and do not pose a health hazard; however, once they are disturbed, through physical contact such as land grading or building renovation and demolition activities, asbestos fibers may be rendered airborne.
Airborne asbestos fibers are a significant health threat because asbestos fibers are microscopic and invisible to the unaided eye. In addition, they have the physical characteristics to bypass the ability of the human lung to filter air contaminants. As a result, exposure to asbestos allows the fibers to reach deep within the lungs, and may irritate and scar lung tissues.
Long-term chronic and acute exposure to asbestos fibers may cause serious health problems including:
Asbestosis, an inflammatory condition of the lungs that can cause shortness of breath, coughing, and eventually scarring of the lungs that makes it hard to breathe.
Mesothelioma, a rare cancer that affects the lining of the lungs, chest cavity, or abdomen.
Other lung problems, including pleural plaques (changes in the membranes surrounding the lungs), thickening of the membranes that surround the lungs, and pleural effusions (abnormal collections of fluid between the lungs and the inside wall of the chest).
Asbestos has been classified as a known carcinogen (a substance that causes cancer) by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the EPA and the International Agency for Research on Cancer. Studies have shown that exposure to asbestos may increase the risk of lung cancer and mesothelioma.
If You Think Your Home, Building or Workplace Contains Asbestos
Hire a certified asbestos consultant. Click here for a list, or look in the yellow pages under “Asbestos” or “Environmental.”
Do not dust, sweep, or vacuum particles suspected of containing asbestos. Use only licensed asbestos removal contractors.
The Contractors State Licensing Board has prepared a booklet titled: “What You Should Know Before You Hire a Contractor.”
The District has free copies of several booklets available on asbestos.
Formsfor demolition or renovation must be submitted by you or your licensed asbestos contractor to the District 10 working days in advance of any work.