For decades, asbestos was a popular material for use in the manufacture of cement, floor tiles, and other construction products. Its wide use in the industry stems from the fact that it has strong fire, electricity, corrosion, and heat-resistant properties.
Manipulating asbestos, a naturally-occurring mineral made up of soft, thin, flexible, and needle-like fibers, is also easy. Eventually, it was even used for car brakes, baby powder, hairdryers, and other everyday products.
Asbestos’ lofty position in the world of manufacturing, however, took a huge hit when the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) concluded in the 1980s that asbestos qualifies as a human carcinogen.
Since its classification as a cancer-causing material, asbestos use the world over has dropped. For people with homes built during the heyday of the mineral, it has become common to seek proper asbestos abatement and removal services to make sure their buildings are no longer contaminated.
Unfortunately, asbestos is still very much present, especially in countries that didn’t ban asbestos. Let’s take a closer look at the exposure risks that asbestos brings with it.
What Asbestos Exposure Can Do To You
For all its resilience when subjected to heat or fire, asbestos is an incredibly fragile material when people handle it. They just crumble into tiny pieces, and when that happens, the people handling them will likely inhale those asbestos fibers. And when those same people have a constant level of asbestos exposure over time, they run the risk of developing serious health issues.
Among those health issues is mesothelioma, easily the one illness most synonymous with asbestos exposure.
Mesothelioma is a type of cancer that directly affects the pleura, the thin lining of the lungs, and the peritoneum, which is the serous membrane that lines the abdominal cavity and covers the abdominal organs.
A person suffering from mesothelioma may experience symptoms that include chest or abdominal pain, fatigue, a dry, wheezing cough, muscle weakness, fever or night sweats, and shortness of breath.
There is no cure for mesothelioma, a disease which recorded a death rate of eight per million people in the United States from 1999 to 2015. About 3,000 people are diagnosed with the illness in the US every year.
Asbestos has also proven to be a contributing factor in four percent of lung cancer cases.
Another illness that asbestos can bring about is one that carries its name. Asbestosis is a lung disease caused by the inhalation of asbestos particles over a long period. While not considered cancer, asbestosis can still be fatal, as it causes severe respiratory issues. It also scars lung tissue. Like mesothelioma, there is no cure for asbestosis.
Our Asbestos Exposure Risk
Did you grow up in a home that was built in the 1980s or earlier? If so, then there’s a very high likelihood that you have already been exposed to asbestos for years. Remember, asbestos was a common ingredient in cement and floor tiles for decades, and your home may have been constructed using such products. Even the pipes that bring water into your home probably have asbestos content, too.
If you’re still living in that very same home, then you have to make sure you don’t disturb its concrete walls and floors. Forget about remodeling, especially if it involves demolishing certain concrete parts of the house. You should also avoid doing something as simple as nailing paintings or pictures to the wall if you don’t want to end up inhaling tiny asbestos particles.
If you’re working in the construction industry, then your exposure to asbestos is even higher. The same goes for people who work in shipyards, factories, power plants, shipyards, and other workplaces where the heavy presence of asbestos is an everyday fact of life.
The exposure of asbestos as a carcinogen generated a controversy that rages on to this day. With asbestos’ harmful effects finally out in the open, countries like Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom have banned the mineral. The European Union has also done the same thing.
Many other countries, however, have yet to ban asbestos more than thirty years after its categorization as a carcinogen. The United States, for instance, continues to import asbestos and use it for fireproofing materials, gaskets, and the like.
With asbestos still legally available and in use in the United States, Russia, China, and many other countries, it is probably safe to say that our exposure risk to the mineral remains high, and will likely stay that way for years to come.
- This is a guest post not written by this websites’ owner.