Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral fibre used as a binder to provide rigidity for other materials such as cement. It is also fire resistant and was therefore was added to a variety of products to strengthen them and to provide heat insulation and fire resistance.
Asbestos comes in several different types some of which are more dangerous than others however all types of asbestos are considered dangerous if the fibres are inhaled, as they can cause lung cancers. The risk of cancer increases with the number of fibres inhaled. The symptoms of these diseases do not usually appear until about 20 to 30 years after the first exposure to asbestos. Most people exposed to small amounts of asbestos, as we all are in our daily lives, do not develop these health problems. However, if disturbed, asbestos containing material may release asbestos fibres, which can be inhaled into the lungs. Asbestos material that would crumble easily if handled, or that has been sawed, scraped, or sanded into a powder, is more likely to create a health hazard. Fibre release is therefore most likely if for example, asbestos containing material is drilled into or sanded inadvertently releasing the fibres into the atmosphere.