Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral and has been used for years in older homes and businesses for its insulating properties. It's resistant to heat and electricity and is a good acoustic barrier as well. Unfortunately, asbestos was found to be toxic, and most of its uses were banned in the United States in 1989 by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The ban was overturned in 1991, allowing trace amounts of asbestos in certain products, but the days of using it in large amounts as an insulator were over. While this stopped the mass use of asbestos, there were no provisions for the homes and businesses that already contained it.
Asbestos abatement teams are typically hired to rid commercial properties of the toxic insulation. While it's possible to perform a DIY asbestos removal, it's not recommended. Aside from the inherent dangers of toxicity, there are many laws that govern the removal of asbestos because it can pose a danger to those in close proximity -- like your neighbors. So what's a homeowner to do? Hire a professional.