People who were old enough to use a hair dryer in the 1970s may remember their first exposure to the fear of asbestos when their dryers were recalled as a health threat [source: CPSC]. Others may have grown up with warnings about staying away from attic insulation or old pipe wrapping in basements, but are these concerns dated now that the world is more aware of the dangers of asbestos exposure?
Asbestos has been a part of the modern built world for more than a century because it is flame resistant, very long lasting and an excellent insulating material. Many compound materials benefit from asbestos because of its taut fiber form. When materials with asbestos are left alone, as manufactured and pressed or mixed together, asbestos can be pretty hard to break down. Using any process or pressure to cut, sand or dig into asbestos-containing parts, however, releases dust shards of fiber particles, launching the asbestos into the air. When the particles are breathed in, they are either subsequently released through exhaling, or they lodge themselves into the organs and air passageways, often causing lung diseases and abnormal, cancerous growths. Mesothelioma, lung cancer and asbestosis are linked to asbestos exposure in the home and workplace, though since the late 1970s, bans and regulations have helped lessen the risks [sources: EPA, CPSC].
Is asbestos just an old concern, or is it a continuing, modern problem? Could there be asbestos in your home? Maybe for sure, maybe not much and maybe none at all, but it's worth brushing up on the subject.