The health risks associated with asbestos have been known since the 1930s, and many countries have completely banned its use. In the US, however, the mineral is still being used in consumer and industrial products today because it is cheap, resistant to fire, electrical and chemical damage, and absorb sound. So it is not only old buildings and houses that you need to be on the look-out for, but things you may have bought or installed recently. If you work in certain industries, your exposure is likely both constant and extensive.
The reason why asbestos exposure is still a very real danger is because while new uses for asbestos have been outlawed, products that have traditionally used it are still considered legal. In the spirit of minimizing exposure, you should know what products in the US are likely to contain asbestos. These include (but not limited to):
Brakes and Clutch Linings – while American car makers don’t use asbestos in their vehicles, replacement parts supplied by third parties may still be doing so. These are usually cheaper than their branded counterparts, so most car owners opt to get those. While asbestos exposure is not a danger to you as the car owner directly, those that work on your car may be getting a free trip to mesothelioma (a type of cancer) or lung disease country.
Construction Materials – If you have recently had your roof re-shingled or your floor tiles replaced, you may have just brought in asbestos to your home. Other likely candidates are cement boards, cement pipes, joint cements and caulking compounds. Unless something happens to reduce these to dust, you’re not in any real danger of exposure, but when it starts to crumble with age, or you have it broken up for any reason, then that’s another story.
Fire Protection Gear and Clothing – Firefighters are required to wear respirator masks when fighting fire or doing training because exposure to heat exposes the asbestos layer. If you aren’t a firefighter, avoid having such things in your possession.
If you are in the automobile, construction or firefighting business, you should be aware of the danger, and your employers should follow federal regulations for minimizing asbestos exposure for their employees. If you have not been made aware of these dangers, or there are no safety procedures in the workplace concerning asbestos exposure, you may already be sick and not know it. Consult with an asbestos lawyer and your physician about your concerns, and get their advice. Hopefully you won’t need either of them. But if it turns out that you do, it is best to be prepared.