Asbestos is a mineral that occurs naturally in the environment. There are six different types of asbestos fibers. All forms of asbestos are hazardous and all can cause cancer. Asbestos fibers do not have any detectable odor or taste. They do not dissolve in water or evaporate and are resistant to heat, fire, chemical and biological degradation.
As a result of these properties, asbestos has been widely used in past years for a range of manufactured products. Although asbestos fibers can come from naturally occurring sources, they also come from the wearing down or disturbance of manufactured products containing the fibers.
A person is most likely to be exposed to asbestos by breathing in asbestos fibers that are suspended in the air. Since asbestos fibers may cause harmful health effects in people who are exposed, the EPA has banned all new uses of asbestos in the United States.