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Health Effects

How Can Asbestos Be Harmful and Dangerous?

In general, asbestos is dangerous when it becomes airborne. Asbestos becomes airborne when an asbestos product is disturbed. Repairs, renovation or demolition activities, are obvious situations where asbestos products are likely to be disturbed. However, other less obvious scenarios such as an earthquake, strong air current, sanding, water damage, and abrasive foot traffic can release asbestos fibers into the air. Asbestos can also be ingested or absorbed into skin (usually only documented with asbestos removal workers who are not following regulatory guidelines).

Microscopic asbestos fibers enter the body when a person inhales or ingests airborne particles that become embedded in the tissues of the respiratory or digestive systems. The most dangerous asbestos fibers are too small to be visible. Exposure to asbestos can cause disabling or fatal diseases such as asbestosis, an emphysema-like condition; lung cancer; mesothelioma, a cancerous tumor that spreads rapidly in the cells of membranes covering the lungs and body organs; and gastrointestinal cancer.

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