Q: What is asbestos?
A: Asbestos is the name for a group of fibrous minerals that are mined and mixed into building materials.
Asbestos is very resistant to heat and chemicals.
Asbestos has been used in a wide range of manufactured goods including floor and ceiling tiles, coatings, texturing materials and thermal insulation.
Currently, asbestos is used only in products where another material has not been found to replace it.
Generally, asbestos is not a health risk when bound together with a substance that prevents the fibres from entering the environment.

Q: How does asbestos enter the environment?
A: Asbestos enters the air when there is a wearing down of the product or it is disturbed during removal.
Small fibres can remain suspended in the air and can be transported by air currents.
Q: How might someone be exposed?
A: By breathing in air containing asbestos fibers.
Also, fibres can be ingested.
Q: What are the possible health risks of asbestos?
A: The body cannot breakdown or eliminate inhaled fibres.
A slow build up of scar-like tissue in the lungs
(called asbestosis) can occur.
Asbestosis has typically been observed in asbestos workers.
There are no symptoms of exposure such as coughing, sneezing or itching and therefore you cannot tell if asbestos is in the air or if you have inhaled it.
Q: Can asbestos cause cancer?
A: Asbestos is known to cause cancer.
Two types of cancer have been observed in individuals exposed to asbestos:
- Lung cancer
- Mesothelioma ( a cancer of the lining of the chest and abdomen)
Q: Can I be tested for exposure to asbestos?
A: Chest X-rays cannot detect asbestos fibres, only signs of lung disease.
Tests for asbestos fibres in body fluids are available but are of questionable medical value.