Asbestos Roofing Dangers

Asbestos, which in Greek loosely means inextinguishable, is a dangerous material used frequently in the late 19th and early 20th century because of its properties to absorb sound and resist electrical, heat and chemical damage. It was later found that this material can cause many harmful side effects when inhaled into the lungs. If you find that you are dealing with roofing materials made from asbestos, make sure to talk to a professional and to follow all safety precautions when dealing with such hazardous materials.

Airborne Fibers

An old roof may contain asbestos particles.

One of the biggest dangers of working with roofing asbestos materials is that fibers may become airborne (also known as friable). Asbestos is not actually dangerous unless it is inhaled when airborne. This is why many asbestos-familiar professionals suggest leaving an asbestos roof alone if it is in good condition. Asbestos can become airborne if it is dusted, swept, vacuumed, sawed, sanded, scraped, drilled or brushed. Once this occurs, the fibers can become lodged in the lungs and on clothes to be transported elsewhere.


Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer that can occur from an exposure to asbestos. This cancer can develop when asbestos particles become inhaled and get lodged in the inner wall of the lungs, the heart or the lining of the abdominal cavity. Mesothelioma leads to a shortness of breath because of fluid in the lungs, chest pain and general cancer symptoms. The disease does not have a positive prognosis, and chemotherapy, radiation and surgery are not extremely effective for treatment.

Lung Cancer

Asbestos exposure from roofing or any other activity can lead to an increased incidence of lung cancer, according to the Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry Lung cancer is most common cause of cancer-related death in the United States, and a combination of smoking and asbestos exposure can increase the chances of contracting the condition even more. Lung cancer has symptoms like coughing up blood, shortness of breath and weight loss.


This non-cancerous condition is caused by the inhalation of asbestos fibers over the course of many years or after high-intensity exposure. The condition leads to chronic inflammation, chronic shortness of breath and an increased chance of lung cancer and mesothelioma. Asbestosis does not typically manifest until several decades after exposure, and in its most advanced stages it may lead to a complete failure of the lungs.

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