• Asbestos is a naturally occurring substance (mineral), and the National Cancer Institute (NCI) reports that everyone is exposed to it routinely in very small amounts. However, some people are at risk of exposure to much higher levels of asbestos, which can cause serious health problems.

    At-Risk Groups

    People who may be exposed routinely to asbestos include, according to the NCI, those who work in shipbuilding; asbestos miners and millers; those who manufacture asbestos-containing products and those who install or remove asbestos or drywall; demolition workers; firefighters and other rescue workers; those in the auto industry; custodians who work in environments with asbestos; and individuals who live with workers exposed to asbestos.


    People routinely exposed to asbestos or who are exposed to a large amount of asbestos often have severe respiratory problems that may include, according to the NCI, a form of cancer known as mesothelioma.


    Some people become ill after only a very small exposure to asbestos, although this is very rare. Although disease at low exposure is rare, the NCI reports that there is no truly safe level of exposure to asbestos.


    The permissible exposure limit (PEL), an OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) standard, for asbestos is 0.1 fiber per cubic centimeter of air in eight hours.


    In order to protect workers exposed to asbestos, employers must provide respirators for doing tasks where exposure to the asbestos exceeds its PEL, according to OSHA.


    National Cancer Institute: Asbestos Exposure and Cancer Risk

    OSHA: Asbestos Fact Sheet

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