Asbestos has been used in many industries. For example, the building and construction industries have used it for strengthening cement and plastics as well as for insulation, roofing, fireproofing, and sound absorption.
The shipbuilding industry has used asbestos to insulate boilers, steam pipes, and hot water pipes. The automotive industry uses asbestos in vehicle brake shoes and clutch pads.
Asbestos has also been used in ceiling and floor tiles, paints, coatings, adhesives and plastics. In addition, asbestos has been found in vermiculite-containing garden products and some talc-containing crayons.
In August 2000, the EPA conducted a series of tests to evaluate the risk for consumers of adverse health effects associated with exposure to asbestos-contaminated vermiculite. The EPA concluded that exposure to asbestos from some vermiculite products poses only a minimal health risk.
The EPA recommended that consumers reduce the low risk associated with the occasional use of vermiculite during gardening activities by limiting the amount of dust produced during vermiculite use. Specifically, the EPA suggested that consumers use vermiculite outdoors or in a well-ventilated area. Keep vermiculite damp while using it to avoid bringing dust from vermiculite into the home on clothing and use premixed potting soil, which is less likely to generate dust.
People may be exposed to asbestos in their workplace, their communities, or their homes.
If products containing asbestos are disturbed, tiny asbestos fibers are released into the air.
When asbestos fibers are breathed in, they may get trapped in the lungs and remain there for a long time. Over time, these fibers can accumulate and cause scarring and inflammation, which can affect breathing and lead to serious health problems.