While most people have heard of asbestos and appreciate it’s not something they want to spend a lot of time around, there is still plenty about this material that the general population isn’t aware of. One major question that gets brought up a lot is, “Is asbestos banned in the US?” We’ll get to that in a moment, but let’s start out by covering the basics of what this material really is.
What Is Asbestos?
Asbestos is actually a name that comprises six fibrous minerals, all of which are naturally occurring. It also has six primary sub-classifications. These are crocidolite, chrysotile, amosite, tremolite, anthophyllite and actinolite. Of these six, amosite, and chrysolite are the most common forms of asbestos.
The fibers of asbestos are generally microscopic and thus indiscernible to the naked eye. However, they are extremely durable as well as fire-resistant. Asbestos is also nearly immune to most forms of chemical breakdown and reactions.
Why Is Asbestos so Prevalent?
Given that most people understand, to some degree or another, that asbestos is dangerous, you may be wondering why it’s such a common threat. After all, although it’s naturally occurring, it’s also generally only brought up in reference to man-made objects like old buildings.
You hear about asbestos a lot because those properties we just covered made it extremely attractive for all kinds of industrial and commercial applications. Mainly, its impressive strength combined with the fact that it was resistant to fire, made it a go-to choice for things like:
- Floor Tiles
- Roofing Shingles
- Ceiling Materials
- Textile Products
- Cement Compounds
- Automotive Parts
Those are just the most common examples, but there were a number of others. In fact, asbestos is still in use today for a number of reasons because, quite frankly, there is no replacement for what it can do.
How Come It’s so Dangerous?
To put it simply, asbestos is known to be a carcinogen. Ironically, the thing that people loved about it so much—its durability—is also the reason we really shouldn’t be around it.
Recall that asbestos fibers are microscopic. Most would be about .02 the diameter of one of your hairs. As you can imagine, this makes it extremely easy for someone to inhale a fiber of asbestos or, actually, millions of them, if they’re around the material for any period of time and aren’t wearing a protective mask.
Of course, you and I probably inhale all matter of materials throughout the day. But those materials don’t cling onto our body’s respiratory system. Asbestos does, including the inner cavity tissue as well as the lining of our lungs.
Despite the fact that they are so easily made airborne and mobilized into our bodies, asbestos fibers are actually quite rigid for the most part. So once they are inhaled, these fibers lodge themselves into the respiratory system’s soft internal tissue. It is then nearly impossible for the body to break them down or otherwise expel these fibers.
Who Is at Risk for Cancer?
Sadly, just about anyone who has been exposed to asbestos is at risk of cancer. Practically everyone who worked with it during the 70s has had at least some kind of medical issue directly related to it. So even if you were just in a building with asbestos exposed, it’s worth a trip to the doctor.
Is Asbestos Banned in the US?
Although we touched on this somewhat earlier, the answer to the initial question posed here is that no, asbestos is not banned. However, it is so heavily regulated as to practically be illegal. The chances of anyone getting sick from the asbestos currently in use are extremely small.