Why Do You Need to be Concerned About Asbestos?
Asbestos is a mineral fiber that has been
used commonly in a variety of building construction materials
for insulation and as a fire-retardant. Because of its fiber
strength and heat resistant properties, asbestos has been used
for a wide range of manufactured goods, mostly in building materials
(roofing shingles, ceiling and floor tiles, paper products,
and asbestos cement products), friction products (automobile
clutch, brake, and transmission parts), heat-resistant fabrics,
packaging, gaskets, and coatings.
When asbestos-containing materials are damaged
or disturbed by repair, remodeling or demolition activities,
microscopic fibers become airborne and can be inhaled into the
lungs, where they can cause significant health problems.
Most Common Sources of Asbestos Exposure:
Workplace exposure to people that work in
industries that mine, make or use asbestos products and those
living near these industries, including:
the construction industry (particularly
building demolition and renovation activities),
the manufacture of asbestos products (such
as textiles, friction products, insulation, and other building
during automotive brake and clutch repair
Deteriorating, damaged, or disturbed asbestos-containing
products such as insulation, fireproofing, acoustical materials,
and floor tiles.
What is asbestos?
Asbestos is the name given to a number of
naturally occurring fibrous minerals with high tensile strength,
the ability to be woven, and resistance to heat and most chemicals.
Because of these properties, asbestos fibers have been used
in a wide range of manufactured goods, including roofing shingles,
ceiling and floor tiles, paper and cement products, textiles,
coatings, and friction products such as automobile clutch, brake
and transmission parts. The Toxic Substances Control Act defines
asbestos as the asbestiform varieties of: chrysotile (serpentine);
crocidolite (riebeckite); amosite (cummingtonite/grunerite);
anthophyllite; tremolite; and actinolite.
Asbestos health effects
Exposure to asbestos increases your risk of
developing lung disease. That risk is made worse by smoking.
In general, the greater the exposure to asbestos, the greater
the chance of developing harmful health effects. Disease symptoms
may take several years to develop following exposure. If you
are concerned about possible exposure, consult a physician who
specializes in lung diseases (pulmonologist).
Exposure to airborne friable asbestos may
result in a potential health risk because persons breathing
the air may breathe in asbestos fibers. Continued exposure can
increase the amount of fibers that remain in the lung. Fibers
embedded in lung tissue over time may cause serious lung diseases
including asbestosis, lung cancer, or Mesothelioma. Smoking
increases the risk of developing illness from asbestos exposure.
Three of the major health effects associated
with asbestos exposure include:
Asbestosis -- Asbestosis
is a serious, progressive, long-term non-cancer disease of
the lungs. It is caused by inhaling asbestos fibers that irritate
lung tissues and cause the tissues to scar. The scarring makes
it hard for oxygen to get into the blood. Symptoms of asbestosis
include shortness of breath and a dry, crackling sound in
the lungs while inhaling. There is no effective treatment
Lung Cancer -- Lung cancer
causes the largest number of deaths related to asbestos exposure.
People who work in the mining, milling, manufacturing of asbestos,
and those who use asbestos and its products are more likely
to develop lung cancer than the general population. The most
common symptoms of lung cancer are coughing and a change in
breathing. Other symptoms include shortness of breath, persistent
chest pains, hoarseness, and anemia.
Mesothelioma -- Mesothelioma is a rare form of
cancer that is found in the thin lining (membrane) of the
lung, chest, abdomen, and heart and almost all cases are linked
to exposure to asbestos. This disease may not show up until
many years after asbestos exposure. This is why great efforts
are being made to prevent school children from being exposed.
What if I have asbestos
in my home?
The best thing to do is to
leave asbestos-containing material that is in good condition
alone. If unsure whether or not the material contains asbestos,
you may consider hiring a professional asbestos inspector
to sample and test the material for you. Before you have your
house remodeled, you should find out whether asbestos-containing
materials are present. If asbestos-containing material is
becoming damaged (i.e., unraveling, frayed, breaking apart)
you should immediately isolate the area (keep pets and children
away from the area) and refrain from disturbing the material
(either by touching it or walking on it). You should then
immediately contact an asbestos professional for consultation.
It is best to receive an assessment from one firm and any
needed abatement from another firm to avoid any conflict of
interest. In such a scenario as described above, asbestos-containing
material does not necessarily need to be removed, but may
rather be repaired by an asbestos professional via encapsulation