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Word Count: 586
Asbestos is the name for a group of naturally occurring silicate minerals that can be separated into fibers The fibers are strong durable and resistant to heat and fire They are also long thin and flexible Asbestos fibers can be molded or woven into various fabrics Because it is nonflammable and a poor heat conductor asbestos has been widely used to make fireproof products such as safety clothing for fire fighters and insulation products such as hot-water piping Asbestos has also been used in building-construction materials textiles missile and jet parts asphalt and caulking compounds and paints and in friction products such as brake linings Since the 1960s asbestos has been recognized as a potent carcinogen and serious health hazard Inhalation of airborne asbestos fibers has been established as the cause of asbestosis thickening and scarring of lung tissue and as a cause of mesothelioma a highly lethal tumor of the pleura as well as of cancers of the lung intestines and liver The main symptoms include shortness of breath on exertion a persistent cough chest pain or tightening of the chest nail abnormalities such as ridges developing on the nails or white streaks on the nails and thickening of the fingers and toes There is no cure for asbestos diseases but as severity depends on the length of exposure and amount of asbestos dust inhaled early identification through chest x-ray can prevent further exposure and worsening of conditions Asbestos is obtainable by various underground mining methods but the most common method is open-pit mining Only about 6 percent of the mined ore contains usable fibers For many years mining companies have known about the connection between mesothelioma and asbestos but choose not to inform their employees Moreover while many employees became sick and suffered lung disease some companies had their doctors diagnose those employees with lung cancer caused by smoking In 1972 the Occupational Safety and Health Administration began regulating asbestos and strengthening work
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