Thursday, May. 27, 2010


At first glance, asbestos appears to be a construction worker's confidant. It is a versatile mineral fiber that excels at absorption and can withstand the harshness of heat. But when floor tiles or roof shingles need to be repaired or replaced, asbestos morphs into a homeowner's headache. Those same strong fibers that drive a building's start can turn nasty during remodeling or demolition stages. Inhaling the toxic particles in that state causes asbestosis — a condition instigated by fibrosis in the lungs, sparking chest pain, shortness of breath, nail abnormalities, clubbing of fingers and other complications. With those factors in mind, the EPA issued a ruling on July 12, 1989, banning most asbestos-containing products. But two years later, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans overturned that decision, leaving only some products on the banned list: flooring felt, rollboard and corrugated, commercial and specialty paper. When a substance makes its way into the federal government's Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry, something was wrong to begin with.