Definition of asbestos

1) A naturally occurring fibrous mineral found in certain types of rock formations. The primary use of asbestos was as a fireproofing material, applied to structural steel members in multistory commercial buildings to attain proper fire protection. With its resistance to heat, asbestos was able to keep the building structure from bending and warping if exposed to fire. After widespread use of asbestos, over a 15 to 25 year time span, a pattern of illness gradually began to occur in asbestos workers. Three diseases linked to asbestos exposure are asbestosis, a fibrous scarring of the lungs, lung cancer, and mesothelioma, a cancer of the lining of the chest or abdominal cavity.

source: [Indoor Air Quality; Hays, S. M., Gobbell, R. V., Ganick, N. R.; McGraw-Hill, New York, 1995.]