Asbestos is a group of minerals with thin microscopic fibers.
Because these fibers are resistant to heat, fire, and chemicals and do not conduct electricity, asbestos has been mined and used widely in the construction, automotive, military, marine, and manufacturing industries. Before the mid 1970s, asbestos was often found in insulation, cement, ceiling and roofing products, and automotive brake materials. Asbestos is a recognized carcinogen, or substance that can cause cancer.
When tiny particles of this fibrous mineral are manufactured or disturbed, they can float in the air, allowing people to breathe in or swallow the particles. Asbestos fibers work their way to the outside surface of the lung, stomach or bowel, where they become trapped.
Over many years, these trapped fibers cause a reaction leading to cancer.
The time between the first exposure to asbestos and the appearance of malignant mesothelioma, known as the “latency period,” ranges from as little as 15 years to as many as 50 years.