Asbestos becomes a potential risk to health if fibres are suspended in air and breathed into the lungs. Breathing asbestos fibres into the lungs can cause a range of diseases, including mesothelioma, lung cancer and asbestosis
We are all exposed to low levels of asbestos in the air we breathe every day. Ambient or background air usually contains between 10 and 200 fibres every 1,000 litres (or cubic metre) of air. Whether a person goes on to develop an asbestos-related disease depends on a range of circumstances or exposure factors; for example, the level and duration of exposure, length of time since first exposure, the fibre type, and concurrent exposure to tobacco smoke and other carcinogens.
A very small number of asbestos-related disease cases occur each year in people who have not worked with asbestos products. The low number of cases makes it difficult to determine the exact cause of the disease or which exposure to asbestos was the contributing factor.