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Asbestos is a toxic substance that has been linked to several health conditions including various forms of cancer. It is a natural mineral, several different kinds of minerals actually, and has been used in numerous products for all sorts of human applications. Asbestos was used in kitchenware and insulation. It was used in fireproofing and piping. And while no new applications of asbestos are allowed these days, some of the old uses are still out there, one of which is asbestos felt.

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Asbestos felt or roofing felt is a mixture of asbestos and asphalt used as a protective layer between the sheathing of the roof and the shingles. Though a fairly simple application, asbestos felt can be dangerous when handled improperly.

Most of the time, asbestos felt that is in place on your roof is fine. You are not in direct contact with it, first of all, and it is made so that it is nonfriable. The term “nonfriable” refers to an asbestos-containing product’s ability to stay together. Basically, asbestos felt cannot generally be broken apart in your hands. However, weather damage can make the material friable, meaning subject to breaking apart. When an asbestos-containing product can be broken apart easily, the particles emitted will become airborne, at which time they become a hazard. It is the inhalation of asbestos that causes illness.

If you think the asbestos felt on your roof may be friable or damaged in some way, it is imperative that you seek professional help immediately. It is not recommended that you remove any asbestos materials on your own. Likewise, you should never cut, saw, sand or otherwise break apart the materials as you’ll send a great number of asbestos fibers into the air.

Exposure to asbestos can lead to several diseases, including asbestosis, a condition that causes scarring of the lungs. Several forms of cancer can result from asbestos exposure as well including lung cancer, stomach cancer, rectal cancer and mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer that affects the abdominal and chest lining.

Exposure is a serious matter and if you think there are asbestos-containing materials in your home or workplace, bring it to someone’s attention immediately. You and your family’s health may be at risk. There were over 3,000 products at one time that contained asbestos. Even though no new products are allowed to be manufactured containing the mineral today, asbestos is still a concern.