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State health officials confirmed today, that the early Monday morning fire, which damaged 4 units in the Holly apartments in Boulder, has exposed asbestos in the building materials. Until further testing to check the air quality is completed, the residents who are mostly University of Colorado students will have to wait to retrieve their belongings.


Asbestos is a mineral fiber that has been used commonly in a variety of building construction materials for insulation and as a fire-retardant. EPA and CPSC have banned several asbestos products. Manufacturers have also voluntarily limited uses of asbestos. Today, asbestos is most commonly found in older homes, in pipe and furnace insulation materials, asbestos shingles, millboard, textured paints and other coating materials, and floor tiles.

Elevated concentrations of airborne asbestos can occur after asbestos-containing materials are disturbed by cutting, sanding or other remodeling activities. Improper attempts to remove these materials can release asbestos fibers into the air in homes, increasing asbestos levels and endangering people living in those homes.

Asbestos is impure magnesium silicate minerals in a fibrous form and has been linked to lung cancer and specifically mesothelioma, a rare, deadly cancer that attacks the linings of the lungs, abdomen and heart and is almost exclusively caused by exposure to asbestos.

Due to the long incubation period, symptoms which include shortness of breath, chest pain and severe cough, may not surface for 20 years or more. Thus, mesothelioma is often not diagnosed until the disease has progressed to an advanced state making treatment difficult and the chance of survival compromised.

The fire which is thought to have started in a juniper bush outside the building is under investigation.

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