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There are several minerals commonly known as asbestos. These minerals can be used to make products strong, long-lasting and fire-resistant.

Before 1990, asbestos was mainly used for insulating buildings and homes against cold weather and noise. It was also used for fireproofing.

The problem with asbestos is the small strands that make it up when inhaled stick to key parts of the body and can cause cancer. Asbestos has become a material that needs to be treated carefully. Many regulations have been introduced in both Canada, the US and the rest of the world in order to properly dispose of the material.

Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary
asbestos (noun)
any of several minerals (as chrysotile) that readily separate into long flexible fibers, that cause and have been implicated as causes of certain cancers, and that have been used especially formerly as fireproof insulating materials - asbestosis