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Asbestos Exposure Cancer | Simmons Mesothelioma Foundation

Simmons Mesothelioma Foundation

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Asbestos Information

What is asbestos?

Asbestos refers to the group of minerals classified as having microscopic fibers that can separate and, when inhaled, invade the body’s organs with toxic effects.

The six different minerals are1:

  • amosite
  • chrysotile
  • crocidolite
  • fibrous tremolite
  • fibrous actinolite
  • fibrous anthophyllite

Learn about the history of asbestos.

Asbestos occurs naturally, but is also mined and manufactured as a component of other industrial products, including insulation, brake linings and construction/building materials. Some of the people most at risk for asbestos exposure include:

  • Shipyard workers
  • Asbestos miners/mill workers
  • Producers of asbestos products
  • Heating/construction workers
  • Family members and others who live with asbestos workers (“take-home” exposure on clothing/hair)

According to the National Cancer Institute, 70 to 80 percent of all cases of mesothelioma reported asbestos-exposure work histories.

Asbestos protection for U.S. workers

According to an OSHA fact sheet, there are three standards that protect workers from exposure to asbestos:

  • 29 CFR 1926.1101 for construction work
  • 29 CFR 1915.1001 for work in shipyards
  • 29 CFR 1910.1001 general industry

Because asbestos exposure can increase the risk for diseases like mesothelioma, asbestosis and lung cancer, many groups have called for greater regulation or total bans of asbestos. Learn more about the efforts to ban asbestos.

Risk factors for asbestos-related disease

Via the National Cancer Institute:

  • Dose
  • Duration
  • Size, shape, and chemical makeup of the asbestos fibers
  • Source of the exposure
  • Individual risk factors, such as smoking and pre-existing lung disease.

See related asbestos topics:


1Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry