From the Department of Natural Resources: Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral fiber. Because of its unique properties, such as fire resistance, high tensile strength, poor heat and electric conductivity, and being generally impervious to chemical attacks, it was used in a number of different materials, mainly building products and brake pads, up into the 1970s. It may still be found in some products currently being manufactured.
Because of the microscopic nature of asbestos fibers, they can easily be inhaled into the body where they can accumulate and eventually leading to disease. There are three major health risks associated with asbestos exposure: asbestosis, mesothelioma and lung cancer.
For more information, visit DNR’s website: http://dnr.mo.gov/pubs/pub2077.pdf