Asbestos is a mineral fiber that had been used commonly in a variety of building construction materials for insulation and as a fire-retardant. Today, asbestos is most commonly found in older homes, in pipe and furnace insulation materials, asbestos shingles, millboard, textured paints, other coating materials, and floor tiles.
Elevated concentrations of airborne asbestos can occur after asbestos-containing materials are disturbed by cutting, sanding, or other remodeling activities. Improper attempts to remove these materials can release asbestos fibers into the air in homes, increasing asbestos levels and endangering people living in these homes. The most dangerous asbestos fibers are too small to be visible. After they are inhaled, they can remain and accumulate in the lungs.
Asbestos can cause lung cancer, mesothelioma (a cancer of the chest and abdominal linings), and asbestosis (irreversible lung scarring that can be fatal). Symptoms of these diseases do not show up until many years after the exposure began.