Asbestos is the name for a group of naturally occurring minerals that separate into strong, very fine fibers. The fibers are heat-resistant and extremely durable. Because of these qualities, asbestos has become very useful in construction and industry.
Asbestos tends to break down into a dust of microscopic fibers. Because of their size and shape, these tiny fibers remain suspended in the air for long periods of time and can easily penetrate body tissues after being inhaled or ingested. Due to its durability, these fibers can remain in the body for many years and, thereby, become the cause of asbestos-related diseases. Symptoms of these diseases generally do not appear for 10 to 30 years after the exposure. Unfortunately, long before its effects are detectable, asbestos-related injury to the body may have already occurred. There is no safe level of exposure known; therefore, exposure to friable asbestos should be avoided.