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People who spend most of their time indoors should consider the possible threat to their health from indoor air pollution. Indoor air pollution continues to put people at risk throughout the world's industrialized countries. Components of indoor air pollution range from biological contaminants to secondhand tobacco smoke to the chemical byproducts of technology.

Individuals who spend time in older homes and buildings may have reason to be concerned about asbestos. A mineral fiber, asbestos has been used throughout many homes and buildings as insulation and fire-retardant. Many asbestos products have now been banned due to the fiber's toxicity. But in some older homes, it can still be found in insulation materials, shingles, floor tiles, and paints.

Asbestos enters the indoor air pollution mix usually as a result of remodeling activities or removal efforts. Cutting materials that contain asbestos will release asbestos fibers into the air. Even improper attempts to remove asbestos can actually end up increasing levels instead, threatening residents with negative health effects.

Asbestos fibers are so small that they can be invisible. Once inhaled, they begin to accumulate in the lungs. The fibers can cause lung cancer, cancer of the chest and abdominal linings, and fatal lung scarring. Unfortunately symptoms may not appear for years after exposure. Most lethal exposures occur on the job.

Your greatest plan for dealing with potential asbestos problems is to learn more about asbestos. Several government agencies have produced informative publications and websites dealing with asbestos.

If you have asbestos in your home, it may be better left alone. If the asbestos-containing materials are in good condition, then they will only release fibers if disturbed. Danger only occurs when fibers are released and inhaled.

If you must remodel, or if the asbestos materials are in poor condition, then hire a professionally trained contractor to remove or clean up the asbestos.