Things You Need To Know About Asbestos and Its Exposure Risks
Are you living in a house that was built in the 20th century, especially during the middle to late part of that period?
If the answer is yes, then there’s a huge possibility that your residence has asbestos in its walls, floors, and even textured ceilings. That means your house will have to undergo proper asbestos abatement and removal at some point.
Manufacturers have heavily favored the use of asbestos in the production of cement, floor tiles, and other construction products during that period. Even products like hair dryers and car brakes contained a certain amount of asbestos back then. Asbestos, after all, is incredibly resistant to fire and heat, electricity, and corrosion, which makes them an ideal material for construction products and the like.
If asbestos is that useful, then why is it that the mere mention of the word now brings forth images of suffering and death?
WHAT IS ASBESTOS?
Asbestos is a naturally-occurring mineral made up of needle-like fibers that are soft, thin, and flexible.
It also happens to be a human carcinogen and has been considered as such since the 1980s. Many countries have promptly banned the use and importation of asbestos. Some nations, however, have chosen not to impose any such bans, and are still using asbestos in various products, albeit at a much smaller scale than before.
EFFECTS OF ASBESTOS EXPOSURE
Fire, electricity, and corrosion can’t do much to asbestos. Handling by humans, however, can break asbestos quite easily.
Something as simple as drilling into walls or taking a sledgehammer to a floor can send tiny asbestos fibers flying in the air. Without adequate protection, the people performing the tasks mentioned above are likely to inhale those fibers. And if that level of exposure is a regular thing, it would only be a matter of time before they develop any of the following illnesses:
Mesothelioma is a type of cancer that is most closely associated with asbestos exposure. Every year, approximately 3,000 people are diagnosed with mesothelioma in the United States. From 1999 to 2015, eight per one million people in the U.S. have succumbed to the illness.
As with any type of cancer, there is no cure for mesothelioma, which affects the pleura and the peritoneum, which are the serous membranes that line the lungs and the abdominal cavity, respectively.
The symptoms of mesothelioma include:
- chest or abdominal pain
- shortness of breath
- fever or night sweats
- muscle weakness
- dry, wheezing cough
When a person inhales asbestos fibers over a long period, he or she will also likely develop asbestosis, a lung disease that causes severe respiratory problems and scars lung tissue. People with asbestosis will experience a variety of symptoms, the most common of which are:
- swelling in the neck or face
- swallowing difficulties
- breathing that crackles
- blood in sputum
- shortness of breath
- weight loss
- decreased appetite
- finger deformity
Asbestosis may not be a cancer, but anyone suffering from this illness is at risk of developing mesothelioma.
The leading cause of lung cancer may be smoking, but a small percentage of lung cancer cases have a direct link to asbestos exposure.
In 2012, the International Agency for Research on Cancer had confirmed that there is a link between asbestos exposure and ovarian cancer.
OCCUPATIONS WITH HIGHEST ASBESTOS EXPOSURE RISK
Construction workers have a pretty high risk of asbestos exposure. The same goes for people who work in factories and shipyards.
At one point, men and women in uniform were very much at risk of asbestos exposure because the military used a lot of products containing the mineral. Navy ships, in particular, used a lot of asbestos for decades.
NO U.S. BAN
Many people don’t know that as deadly as asbestos has proven to be, the United States still didn’t see fit to ban asbestos. To this very day, fireproofing materials and gaskets manufactured in the U.S. contain asbestos.
Australia, Japan, Germany, the United Kingdom, France, and other European Union countries have banned the importation and use of asbestos. There is no sign, however, that the United States, Russia, China, and several other countries are going to follow suit anytime soon.
Guest Contributor: Rachel Anderson