Yes, asbestos is considered a known carcinogen by The International Agency for Cancer Research, The National Toxicology Program, and the US Environmental Protection Agency.
Asbestos may or may not be hazardous. If it is non-friable (that is, non-crumbly) bulk asbestos, at least in California, then it is considered non-hazardous by the Department of Toxic Substances.
If asbestos is in an undamaged product, it may be no problem at all. And small amounts of damage in asbestos products may have no affect on health … but the risk increases the longer the exposure and the greater the amount of exposure. People who smoke are more at risk.
The EPA has a long list of things to consider, most especially that DIY repairs to asbestos materials are generally not recommended. You may need to hire an asbestos professional to assess damage. But it also says that unnecessary removals are a waste of money.
Add to this that the asbestos mined in the Western United States was less likely to cause problems, and that people became sensitized to issues largely because of problem with the East Coast supplies.
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