Asbestos is a set of six naturally occurring silicate minerals
Silicate minerals
The silicate minerals make up the largest and most important class of rock-forming minerals, constituting approximately 90 percent of the crust of the Earth. They are classified based on the structure of their silicate group...

 used commercially for their desirable physical properties. They all have in common their eponymous, asbestiform habit: long, (1:20) thin fibrous crystal
A crystal or crystalline solid is a solid material whose constituent atoms, molecules, or ions are arranged in an orderly repeating pattern extending in all three spatial dimensions. The scientific study of crystals and crystal formation is known as crystallography...

s. The inhalation
Inhalation is the movement of air from the external environment, through the air ways, and into the alveoli....

 of asbestos fibers
Asbestos fibers
Asbestos fibers are released from asbestos containing materials . Friable asbestos containing materials release fibers more readily than encapsulated asbestos containing materials.- Determining airborne asbestos fiber levels :...

 can cause serious illnesses, including malignant lung cancer
Lung cancer
Lung cancer is a disease characterized by uncontrolled cell growth in tissues of the lung. If left untreated, this growth can spread beyond the lung in a process called metastasis into nearby tissue and, eventually, into other parts of the body. Most cancers that start in lung, known as primary...

, mesothelioma
Mesothelioma, more precisely malignant mesothelioma, is a rare form of cancer that develops from the protective lining that covers many of the body's internal organs, the mesothelium...

 (a formerly rare cancer
Cancer , known medically as a malignant neoplasm, is a large group of different diseases, all involving unregulated cell growth. In cancer, cells divide and grow uncontrollably, forming malignant tumors, and invade nearby parts of the body. The cancer may also spread to more distant parts of the...

 strongly associated with exposure to amphibole asbestos), and asbestosis
Asbestosis is a chronic inflammatory and fibrotic medical condition affecting the parenchymal tissue of the lungs caused by the inhalation and retention of asbestos fibers...

 (a type of pneumoconiosis
Pneumoconiosis is an occupational lung disease and a restrictive lung disease caused by the inhalation of dust, often in mines.-Types:Depending upon the type of dust, the disease is given different names:...

). Long exposure to high concentrations of asbestos fibers is more likely to cause health problems.This is most common among the miners of asbestos, since they have the longest exposure to it.