A natural but dangerous fiber was well integrated into the daily lives of Allegheny County residents – even embedded within the structures of homes – before health risks related to the mineral became known. Although asbestos fibers are natural, inhaling or ingesting them can lead to chronic respiratory diseases and cancer. Regulations now limit the use of asbestos but have not eliminated asbestos exposure.
Old products, including the structural contents of entire buildings, still contain asbestos. Employees who make or work with products containing the fibers can be harmed, unless employers take protective measures to secure workers' safety. Workers in certain jobs have had a greater potential exposure to asbestos than employees in other professions.