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  Asbestos-Containing Materials

The name "asbestos" generally refers to six natural-occurring fibrous minerals that have been used in commercial manufacturing. "Asbestos” is not a mineralogical definition, but a commercial designation for mineral products that possess high tensile strength, flexibility, resistance to chemical and thermal degradation, and high electrical resistance that can be woven1.

  History of asbestos use:

The word "asbestos" comes from the Greek word meaning "inextinguishable" or "indestructible," because asbestos has such a high heat resistance. It is said that Romans used asbestos-woven napkins which would be thrown into a fire to clean them after use. The asbestos cloth would come out of the fire whiter than it went in, so the Romans named asbestos "amiantus", meaning "unpolluted." Asbestos has also been known by more common names such as "mountain leather," "incombustible linen," and "rock floss."

Asbestos became popular during the Industrial Revolution during the late 1800s - used primarily as insulation for steam pipes, turbines, boilers, kilns, ovens, and other high-temperature products.

Uses of asbestos

Due to it's fire resistant properties, asbestos (primarily chrysotile or "white asbestos" and to a lesser extent amosite, or "brown asbetsos," was eventually used in an estimated 3,000+ products ranging from fireproofing, accoustical ceiling "popcorn," electrical insulation in toasters, vinyl floor tiles, talcum powder, pipe insulation, and hair dryers.

Use of asbestos in the United States peaked in the 1960s and 1970's, although asbestos was used in hair dryers until approximately 1980.

How do I find out if I have asbestos-containing materials in my building ?

If you suspect you may have asbestos-containing materials in your home, office, or building, you will want to have an Asbestos-Containing Materials Survey completed.

During this survey, an AHERA Building Inspector certified under the Toxic Substance COntrol Act Title II will inspect your home, office, or commercial building and sample materials in various locations. The samples will be analyzed by a state certified laboratory, and the results will be discussed in an Asbestos-Containing Materials Report.

What "exposure" to asbestos means

"Exposure" to asbestos primarily occurs when asbestos fibers are released into the air and inhaled.

Health risks associated with asbestos exposure


Asbestosis is a breathing disorder caused by inhaling asbestos fibers. Prolonged accumulation of these fibers in your lungs can lead to scarring of lung tissue and diminished breathing capacity. Signs and symptoms of asbestosis usually don't appear until years after exposure. But once apparent, the condition often worsens and can lead to disability, or even death if exposure to asbestos continues.

People most likely to develop asbestosis are those who have been exposed to asbestos over a long period of time. Most people with asbestosis acquired it on the job before the federal government began regulating the use of asbestos and asbestos products in the mid-1970s. Today, its handling is strictly regulated. Still, experts estimate that since the 1940s up to 10 million people may have been exposed to asbestos. The good news is that most people with a history of prolonged exposure haven't developed asbestosis, and the risk of asbestosis diminishes every day away from exposure.


Mesothelioma is a fairly rare cancer of the lungs for which there is no cure. In mesothelioma, malignant cells are found in the sac lining of the chest (the pleura) or the abdomen (the peritoneum). Airborne asbestos fibers are inhaled, and due to their very small size, can work there way between the cells of the lung into the pleura, where they cause irritation of the lung lining, leading to a cancer of the pleura.

The majority of people with mesothelioma have a history of jobs that exposed them to asbestos over a period of time[2].

Other cancers:

Asbestos can cause cancers in any part of the body. Due to the small size of the fibers, they can work their way into the blood stream through the lungs and travel to any part of the body where they may cause irritation to the surrounding cells. Asbestos fibers have even been found in brains during atopsies.

How can you protect yourself against asbestos exposure ?

It is important to keep in mind that only asbestos-containing materials that have been damaged pose an immediate health risk. Asbestos-containing materials that are not subject to water, wind, vibration, friction or other disturbance do not pose an immediate health risk, because airborne fibers are not created. However, it is very important to deal with asbestos-containing materials once they are identified.

Four solutions are used to manage the health risks of asbestos-containing materials:

1) Stabilization - encapsulation of asbestos-containing materials with an approved paint-like material,

2) Containment - construction of a physical barrier around asbestos-containing materials,

3) Abatement - physical removal of asbestos-containing materials, and/or

4) Have an Operations and Maintenance Plan (O&M) if the asbestos is not removed. The O&M Plan outlines procedures for dealing with the care, maintenance, and release response of asbestos-containing materials.

These solutions should only be performed by qualified and certified persons. Qualight Environmental can determine which solution is the best for your situation, and provide services for all four solutions.

Links to asbestos-related historical and medical information

National Cancer Institute - information on the history, uses, and dangers of exposure to asbestos.

Mesothelioma Center - information on lung cancer caused by exposure to asbestos.


1 Vitra, Robert, "Asbestos: Geology, Mineralogy, Mining, and Uses," U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).

2 - Definition of Mesothelioma

How much does an Asbestos-Containing Material Survey cost ?

The cost to perform a Asbestos-Containing Material Survey is based on the location, size, and number of buildings on a Property.

Please contact us by phone at 207-838-3168 to speak with a knowledgeable member of our team.

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