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What is Asbestos?
Asbestos is a group of mineral fibers that naturally occur in the earth. Asbestos fibers have special characteristics. Asbestos fibers are not affected by heat or chemicals, and they do not conduct electricity. Asbestos fibers are also very flexible, allowing them to be woven into cloth-like materials.
In the past, asbestos was widely used to make many different products. Almost all of these products are no longer made with asbestos. However, examples of older products that contain asbestos and may still be in homes or cars include ceiling panels, furnace and pipe insulation, floor tiles, brake linings, and other insulation materials. The only way to know if something is made from asbestos is to have it tested by a laboratory. The Minnesota Department of Health recommends that people contact an asbestos consulting firm for testing.
Asbestos and Health
Asbestos is dangerous because it breaks down into thin fibers that cannot be seen with the human eye. These fibers are small and light, and they can remain in the air for days. Once in the air, people can breathe in these fibers. Since the fibers are so small, they travel deep into a person’s lungs. The presence of asbestos fibers in the lung is associated with several serious diseases, including lung cancer, asbestosis (a scarring of the lung tissue), and mesothelioma (cancer of the lining of the lung).
Reducing Asbestos in Buildings
If asbestos is present or suspected in a home or building and in good condition (indicating that no asbestos is airborne), it should not be disturbed. However, if the product is frayed, torn, or breaking apart, it should be isolated and either repaired or removed. Homeowners and commercial building owners are most likely to disturb or damage asbestos products during remodeling or demolition. These activities can cause the asbestos fibers to get into the air where they can be breathed. Homeowners can conduct small asbestos removal projects without a permit or notification of local or state health officials. However, they should still be careful to follow advice from MDH to prevent asbestos fibers from getting into the air. If the amount of asbestos-containing material to be removed is more than 10 linear feet, 6 square feet, or 1 cubic foot, MDH does require notification and a permit. For these larger projects, additional regulations apply and MDH recommends the work be done by a licensed asbestos abatement contractor. For more information, please visit the MDH Asbestos Program website.
What the Map Shows
In the Central Corridor, 270 asbestos abatements were conducted between 2005 and 2010 with required permits. Most of these permits (76%) were for residential abatement projects. This work represented 12% of the asbestos abatements in the Twin Cities reported to MDH for the same time period. (Click on the map for a larger image.)
Printable information sheet, with map: Asbestos Abatements (PDF: 281KB/2 pages)
Click on the map below for a larger image