No amount of asbestos is considered safe. Products that contain greater than 1 percent of asbestos minerals are considered to be asbestos-containing.
The more asbestos you are exposed to, the more likely you are to get an asbestos disease. Asbestosis and lung cancer are dose-related diseases. Dose-related means the more asbestos you breathe, the more likely you are to get sick.
Individual characteristics may also have an effect, such as:
- nutritional status;
- family traits;
- lifestyle; and
- your general state of health.
When asbestos is released into the air, it enters the surrounding environment. You can be exposed to asbestos if you enter these environments. If exposed to asbestos, many factors contribute to whether harmful health effects will occur. These factors include:
- dose (how much);
- duration (how long);
- the route or pathway by which you are exposed (breathing, eating, or drinking); and
- other chemicals to which you are exposed.
Asbestos fibers can be measured when they are in the air. They are measured in units called fibers per cubic centimeter of air (f/cc). A cubic centimeter is about the size of a sugar cube. The air is checked for asbestos fibers by taking samples of the air using air sampling methods. The Minnesota Department of Health has established a "clean air" level of 0.01 f/cc.
You cannot tell when asbestos is in the air or is hurting your lungs. Asbestos will not make you cough or sneeze. It will not make your skin or throat itch. Asbestos fibers get into the air when asbestos materials are damaged, disturbed or removed unsafely. When asbestos is crushed, it does not make ordinary dust. Asbestos breaks into tiny fibers that are too small to see, feel or taste.
All types of asbestos fibers are dangerous if you breathe them. Some people say that some kinds of asbestos fibers are less dangerous. Many people, including doctors and scientists, disagree. Until proven safe, treat all asbestos as dangerous.