April 2, 2014
Contact: HHS Press Office
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Statement from Acting US Surgeon General Boris Lushniak about National Asbestos Week, April 1-7, 2014

Surgeon_General_LogoNational Asbestos Awareness Week, April 1 – 7, is an important opportunity to focus on the public health issues associated with asbestos exposure and related illnesses.

“Asbestos” is a commercial name for a collection of six highly durable fibrous minerals used for decades in thousands of commercial products, such as insulation and fireproofing materials, automotive brakes and textile products, cement and wallboard materials. Scientists have long understood that asbestos can cause mesothelioma, lung cancer, and other lung diseases when the fibers are inhaled. Because of concerns about health effects, exposures to asbestos and certain uses of asbestos have been regulated in the U.S. for over 30 years.

In general, the greater the exposure to asbestos, the greater the chance an individual has of developing harmful health effects. Asbestos fibers may be released into the air where they can be easily inhaled and contaminate the surrounding area during demolition work, building or home maintenance, repair, and remodeling.

For workers or homeowners, avoiding activities involving the disturbance of materials or products containing asbestos is the surest means of avoiding asbestos exposure. However, if you need to undertake such activities, there is guidance available to help you protect yourself and others. While most individuals exposed to asbestos, whether in the home or workplace will not develop disease – there is no known safe level of asbestos exposure and precautions should be taken to protect your health. Apparent symptoms and disease may take many years to develop following exposure, and asbestos-related conditions can be difficult to identify. It’s important to note that tobacco smoke greatly increases your risk of lung cancer if you have already been exposed to asbestos. Anyone who believes he or she has been exposed to asbestos should contact their health care provider for additional advice.

To learn more about asbestos and asbestos-related diseases, please visit: