Asbestos Removal – How Asbestos Can Harm Your Health
The use of asbestos has dropped significantly in recent decades, but the toxic mineral remains a serious problem for anyone involved with — or in the vicinity of — the remodeling, renovation or demolition of a commercial or residential structure built before 1990.
The threat remains real. The risk is still there. No level of exposure is safe. Beware of what surrounds you.
Microscopic asbestos fibers, once they become airborne, can be unknowingly inhaled or ingested, leading to a myriad of serious health issues, including malignant mesothelioma, lung cancer and asbestosis.
Before the dangers were well known, many common building materials contained asbestos. It was once considered a miracle mineral for its ability to resist heat and strengthen most everything.
The Ubiquitous Use of Asbestos
It was used in insulation for homes and commercial structures. It was used in attics, around pipes, with cement and in walls. Asbestos was an inexpensive way to help fireproof most anything. It could be easily sprayed on to provide thermal protection on dozens of products.
It was used in floor tiles, wallboard and plumbing, in air ducts and furnaces.
It is still used legally in roofing materials, in some automobile parts and concrete additives today.
Although the immediate danger may seem minimal if never disturbed, but asbestos can become brittle as it ages, releasing fibers into the air. If inhaled, these fibers can become lodged in the lining around the lungs and abdomen, slowly causing inflammation and scaring, and eventually lead to serious problems.
Health Problems Could Take Decades to Develop
The problem may not arise until decades later. The time between exposure to asbestos and diagnosis of mesothelioma, for example, can be anywhere from 20-50 years, which is one reason why the rate of diagnosis has remained steady in the 21st century.
Asbestos used 30-40 years ago remains in schools, hospitals and businesses today. If someone disturbs the products during a remodeling, begins to sand or drill around them, the fibers will become airborne.
Much the same can happen during a fire with fibers traveling considerable distance. It’s why firefighters are often at risk when they answer calls in older buildings.
Firemen wear protective gear and special breathing apparatuses. Construction workers should do the same to protect themselves. Anyone doing a home remodeling project should protect himself – or at least hire an experienced asbestos abatement company that can assess the job properly.
Any clothes worn on a job site should be left at the workplace to avoid carrying loose fibers home, where they could subject family members to unknowing exposure.
New construction is considerably safer today because most asbestos products are now banned, but it’s hard to avoid all exposure. If you suspect you’ve been exposed, talk to your physician about possible asbestos inhalation. A persistent dry cough, shortness of breath should raise red flag. Insist on a chest X-ray.
Although there is no cure for mesothelioma, early detection is the best way to stop its development and ensure a positive prognosis.