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Ky.gov An Official Website of the Commonwealth of Kentucky

Energy and Environment Cabinet

Picture taken by Candy Montgomery

Division for Air Quality
Asbestos and Health Effects

Answers to the questions on how asbestos affects your health

1. What is asbestos?
Asbestos is a group of natural minerals that occur as masses of long, silky fibers. Asbestos is nonflammable and is resistant to heat, corrosion and chemicals. Asbestos may break into a dust of tiny fibers that can float into the air and be inhaled or swallowed.

2. Where can asbestos be found?
Asbestos was once extensively used by the construction industry as insulation. It was also used in a variety of consumer products. Asbestos may be found in ceilings, wall and pipe coverings, floor tiles, patching and coating materials and a wide variety of cement and wall boards. Asbestos has also been used in household appliances such as toasters, ovens and heating and cooling systems. Normally, these materials do not present a concern. They become a hazard only when they are damaged and release fibers into the air.

3. What are the health effects of asbestos?
Major health problems associated with asbestos exposure are:

  • Lung cancer
  • Asbestosis (a noncancerous lung disease)
  • Mesothelioma (a cancer of the chest and abdominal lining)

Some medical studies have suggested that exposure to asbestos is also responsible for some cancers of internal organs including esophagus, larynx, oral cavity, stomach, colon and kidney.

4. What is the relationship between asbestos exposure and cigarette smoking?
Asbestos exposure and cigarette smoking together greatly increase the risk for lung cancer more than the risk of cancer produced either by smoking or by working with asbestos alone.

5. Are there any federal or state requirements for asbestos removal?
Yes. The Kentucky Division for Air Quality regulates asbestos removal projects and demolition and renovation projects that could involve asbestos. The regulations apply to asbestos professionals and owners of all kinds of buildings except homeowners and owners of apartment buildings of four or fewer units. However, other agencies such as Kentucky Occupational Safety and Health (worker safety) and Kentucky Division of Waste Management (proper disposal) also regulate asbestos activity.