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November 16, 2020
The term “asbestos” refers to a group of natural mineral fibers found in rocks and soil that were widely used in a variety of products because of their strength and high resistance to fire and chemicals.
Unfortunately, asbestos is also to blame for the loss of 39,000 American lives each year. That’s because constant exposure to asbestos leads to several incurable illnesses.
Here are some facts about asbestos, some of which are worrisome enough to get you to consider getting asbestos abatement done on your home, especially if it was built during the mid-20th century or later.
Products That Contain Asbestos
The fire and chemical-resistant properties of asbestos have made them quite popular for use in more than 5,000 products. At one point or another, the following products had asbestos content:
- Brake linings
- Brake pads
- Popcorn ceiling
- Ceiling tiles
- Wall panels
- Electrical breakers
- Electrical panels
- Fire blankets
- Fire curtains
- Furnace insulation
- Vinyl floor tiles
- Vinyl sheet flooring
- Beverage filters
- Caulking and putties
- Soundproofing or decorative material
- Crock pots
- Hair dryers
- Cigarette filters
- Iron rests
- Stove mats
At one point, asbestos also found its way into baby powder.
Asbestos Is A Health Hazard
For all its usefulness in the industry, asbestos later on became notorious for being a health hazard.
It may be resistant to fire and chemicals, but asbestos easily breaks down when handled by humans. Drilling, cutting, or striking floor tiles, shingles, or any product that contains asbestos will release asbestos fibers into the air, where they can be inhaled.
There is also the risk of swallowing asbestos fibers by drinking water that flows through asbestos cement pipes.
While the health risk for those who had short-term exposure to asbestos is low, long-term exposure to asbestos will cause illnesses such as:
Mesothelioma—About 3,000 people are diagnosed each year with mesothelioma. A type of cancer that is most synonymous with asbestos exposure, mesothelioma affects the lining of the lungs and the abdominal cavity. Mesothelioma sufferers experience symptoms that include chest or abdominal pain, shortness of breath, dry, wheezing cough, fever or night sweats, muscle weakness, and fatigue.
Asbestosis—A chronic lung disease, asbestosis causes shortness of breath and lung tissue scarring. Those who inhale asbestos fibers for an extended period will likely develop the disease, whose symptoms include difficulty swallowing, crackling breathing, high blood pressure, clubbing of fingertips and toes, persistent dry coughing, and chest pain or tightness. Asbestosis patients also have an increased risk of developing mesothelioma.
Lung Cancer—Mesothelioma affects the lining of the lungs, while lung cancer develops in the organ itself. While smoking and other environmental factors are the most common causes of lung cancer, asbestos exposure also plays a role. In fact, smokers with a history of asbestos exposure have the highest risk of developing lung cancer.
Ovarian Cancer—Research focused on cases of ovarian cancer involving users of cosmetic talc products has confirmed that there is a link between the disease and asbestos exposure.
Who Is Most at Risk?
Considering how widespread the use of asbestos was in countless buildings and products, we are all at risk of asbestos exposure.
However, at the height of the popularity of asbestos use, some occupations presented a much higher exposure risk than others. They included:
- Raw asbestos miners
- Renovators and demolition specialists
- Construction workers
- Auto mechanics
- Manufacturing workers
- Drywall installers
- Plumbers and pipefitters
- Railroad workers
- Military personnel
Certain materials used in tens of millions of homes and commercial buildings in the United States contain varying levels of asbestos. When the time comes to renovate or demolish the said structures, the asbestos-containing material will likely be disturbed. The air will be thick with asbestos fibers and put everyone at risk of asbestos exposure.
If you suspect that your home or building is contaminated with asbestos, it’s always best to bring in asbestos abatement professionals first before doing any construction or demolition work. They are the ones who are qualified to test and confirm if your building does contain asbestos. They also have the training, equipment, and experience to remove asbestos from any building safely, following strict regulations and processes along the way.