Why Is Asbestos So Harmful? Facts You Should Know

Asbestos siding falling apart due to age

Paragon Environmental is an asbestos removal company located in Golden CO. We are often called to remove asbestos in homes that are older. Sometimes, people ask us why asbestos is so harmful. Here are some answers to that question.

As a naturally occurring group of minerals found in rocks and soil, the dangers inherent in asbestos might not be readily apparent. We often tend to associate the term “natural” with products that are good for us because they occur in nature and don’t carry increased risks from the byproducts of human processing. Yet when it comes to asbestos, the structure of the mineral itself can cause serious and irreversible damage.

Because of its ability to break down into microscopically thin fibers, or “fibrils”, asbestos can remain airborne for days after its release into the environment. Once these tiny fibers enter a person’s body through inhalation or ingestion, they become trapped there. Over the passage of time, these fibers cause inflammation and scarring, and become the culprit of serious diseases and deadly cancers.

Since 1974 the U.S. government has heavily regulated the use of asbestos. Although it is not mined or processed in the U.S. anymore, its presence remains in many products from shipyards to kitchen floor tiles. Here are some statistics about asbestos that you should know:


  • Asbestos includes the mineral fibers chrysotile, amosite, crocidolite, tremolite, anthophyllite, actinolite and any of these materials that have been chemically treated or altered.
  • Asbestos is still used in many U.S. consumer products. Its use is allowed as long as it accounts for less than 1% of the product.
  • Prized for its fiber strength and heat resistance, asbestos is found in fire retardants, insulation, building materials, friction products, and heat-resistant products.
  • People are exposed to asbestos when an asbestos-containing product is disturbed or damaged, releasing the fibers into the air.

Lung Cancer

  • Lung cancer is the most common cancer caused by asbestos and it is responsible for 4% of all lung cancer cases in the U.S.
  • The National Cancer Institute (NCI) confirmed the link between asbestos and lung cancer in 1942.
  • In 1986, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced that Americans who face asbestos hazards at work bear the greatest risk.
  • There is a protracted latency period of 15-35 years for asbestos-related lung cancer to develop, measured from initial exposure.
  • Asbestos exposure combined with smoking greatly increases the chances of developing lung cancer.


  • Mesothelioma is a rare and aggressive cancer of the thin tissue covering most of our internal organs and is the second deadliest cancer associated with asbestos.
  • Approximately 3,000 people are diagnosed with mesothelioma each year, with men over the age of 65 most affected. It is almost exclusively caused by asbestos exposure.
  • Mesothelioma accounts for .3% of all cancer diagnosed in the U.S. each year, and malignant pleural mesothelioma represents 75% of all these cases.
  • Of everyone with prolonged and heavy exposure to asbestos, 2% to 10% will develop pleural mesothelioma.
  • Men are 4.6 times more likely to be diagnosed with mesothelioma and more than 90% of those diagnosed are white.

Other Diseases

  • Asbestosis is a serious, progressive non-cancer lung disease marked by scarring of the tissue and shortness of breath. It is the third most common disease linked to asbestos.
  • Some studies suggest a link between ovarian cancer and asbestos in cases involving women who use talcum powder on their genital areas.
  • A 2006 study sponsored by the National Institutes of Health confirmed the connection between prolonged, extensive exposure to asbestos and laryngeal cancer.
  • Many studies show an elevated risk of gastrointestinal, colorectal, esophageal, and kidney cancers among those exposed to asbestos.

Asbestos is dangerous. According to OSHA, there are no safe levels of asbestos exposure. Therefore, it is imperative to contact a professional asbestos removal company if you suspect your home or business may have asbestos-containing materials, especially if the structure was built before the 1980s. By hiring a professional, you will have the peace of mind that contaminated material will be identified, and if present that it will be removed, repaired, or encapsulated according to strict protocols. You’ll want to eliminate the risk of exposure to this toxic substance, and that is best accomplished by a professional.

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