Asbestos (from Greek �σβεστος meaning “unquenchable” or “inextinguishable”) is a set of six naturally occurring silicate minerals exploited commercially for their desirable physical properties. They all have in common their asbestiform habit, long, (1:20) thin fibrous crystals. The inhalation of asbestos fibers
can cause serious illnesses, including malignant lung cancer, mesothelioma (a formerly rare cancer strongly associated with exposure to asbestos), and asbestosis (a type of pneumoconiosis). Long term exposure to asbestos is more likely to cause health problems, as asbestos exists in the ambient
air at low levels, which itself do not cause health problems.
Asbestos became increasingly popular among manufacturers and builders in the late 19th century because of its sound absorption, average tensile strength, and its resistance to heat, electrical and chemical damage. When asbestos is used for its resistance to fire or heat, the fibers are often mixed
with cement or woven into fabric or mats. Asbestos was used in some products for its heat resistance, and in the past was used on electric oven and hotplate wiring for its electrical insulation at elevated temperature, and in buildings for its flame-retardant and insulating properties, tensile strength, flexibility,and resistance to chemicals.