Asbestos is the name given to a group of six different fibrous minerals (amosite, chrysotile, crocidolite, and the fibrous varieties of tremolite, actinolite, and anthophyllite) that occur naturally in the environment. Asbestos is a problem because, as a toxic substance and a known carcinogen, it can cause several serious diseases in humans. Symptoms of these diseases typically develop over a period of years following asbestos exposure.
Asbestos-containing materials (ACM) in buildings do not always pose a problem (that is, a hazard) to occupants and workers in those buildings. Asbestos becomes a problem when asbestos fibers get into the air and are inhaled; that is, when there is human exposure. Intact, undisturbed asbestos-containing materials generally do not pose a health risk. They may become hazardous and pose increased risk when they are damaged, are disturbed in some manner, or deteriorate over time and thus release asbestos fibers into building air.
If you are exposed to asbestos, many factors determine whether you'll be harmed. These factors include the dose (how much), the duration (how long), the fiber type (mineral form and size distribution), and how you come in contact with it. You must also consider the other chemicals you're exposed to and your age, sex, diet, family traits, lifestyle (including whether you smoke tobacco), and state of health.
Some common asbestos related issues include the following: