What Is Asbestos? How Is It A Health Problem?

557 words - 2 pages

Asbestos is the name for a group of naturally occurring silicate minerals that can be separatedinto fibers. The fibers are strong, durable, and resistant to heat and fire. They are also long, thinand flexible. Asbestos fibers can be molded or woven into various fabrics. Because it isnonflammable and a poor heat conductor, asbestos has been widely used to make fireproofproducts such as safety clothing for fire fighters and insulation products such as hot-waterpiping. Asbestos has also been used in building-construction materials, textiles, missile and jetparts, asphalt and caulking compounds and paints, and in friction products such as brake linings.Since the 1960s, asbestos has been recognized as a potent carcinogen and serious healthhazard. Inhalation of airborne asbestos fibers has been established as the cause of asbestosis(thickening and scarring of lung tissue) and as a cause of mesothelioma (a highly lethal tumor ofthe pleura) as well as of cancers of the lung, intestines, and liver. The main symptoms includeshortness of breath on exertion, a persistent cough, chest pain or tightening of the chest, nailabnormalities (such as ridges developing on the nails or white streaks on the nails) andthickening of the fingers and toes. There is no cure for asbestos diseases, but, as severity dependson the length of exposure and amount of asbestos dust inhaled, early identification through chestx-ray can prevent further exposure and worsening of conditions.Asbestos is obtainable by various underground mining methods, but the most commonmethod is open-pit mining. Only about 6 percent of the mined ore contains usable fibers. Formany years mining companies have known about the connection between mesothelioma andasbestos, but choose not to inform their employees. Moreover, while many employees...

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