The public health problem presented by asbestos (1332214) and its implications for developing countries were discussed. Asbestos is being exported to developing countries partly because of stricter regulations controlling its use in industrialized countries and partially because its use in developing countries is essentially unregulated. The primary use for asbestos in developing countries has been as a building material for residences and water pipes. The history of asbestos mining, production, and uses was considered. Early studies investigating the health effects of asbestos were summarized. Laboratory animal studies of the health effects of asbestos have shown that inhaling asbestos fibers causes fibrotic lesions, lung tumors, and pleural and peritoneal mesotheliomas. When analyzed by both fiber type and lung burden, chrysotile (12001295) appears to be the most fibrogenic and carcinogenic. Epidemiologic studies of the health effects of asbestos have shown that all of the commercially important fiber types, crocidolite (12001284), chrysotile, amosite (12172735), tremolite (77536686), and anthophyllite (77536675), cause nonmalignant respiratory disease and lung cancer. Except for anthophyllite, all have been shown to cause mesothelioma. Some studies have also suggested a link between asbestos exposure and gastrointestinal cancer. Assessing the asbestos risk to workers was discussed. Regulatory actions taken to control asbestos exposure were described. Factors that have contributed to the current epidemic of asbestos related diseases in the US and other industrialized countries were discussed. These include lethargic action taken by the medical community when published evidence of its health effects first appeared, lack of an appropriate infrastructure for dealing with the problem, and lack of an adequate surveillance system. It was noted that transfer of technologies such as asbestos utilization to developing countries can result in adverse health effects occurring in the workers, and the population as a whole.