The Danger Of Asbestos Exposure

In Education

Asbestos belongs to a class of six naturally occurring metals made of thin, needle-like fibers. It causes several health complications like mesothelioma and asbestosis. This material has been banned in many countries. Asbestos is made of soft and flexible fibers resistant to corrosion, electricity, and heat. It is these features that make asbestos useful but also makes it harmful. Generally, asbestos is used in paper, cloth, plastic, and cement.

There is a growing rate of mesothelioma incidence in many states, especially in the northeast and northwest United States. These states had many asbestos mining and processing activities in the 20th century.

The industry has hard hit several mining towns like Pennsylvania, Ambler, Montana, and Libby. In addition, states like California, Wyoming, Idaho, Washington, and Montana have had environmental consequences due to asbestos exposure.

Types of Asbestos

Broadly, asbestos products fall into two categories;

  • Amphibole
  • Serpentine

Amphibole asbestos is characterized by having a straight, jagged shape. They fall under five categories:-

  • Crocidolite
  • Amosite
  • Anthophyllite

Serpentine is curly and is mainly of one category called Chrysotile also known as ‘white asbestos.’

Many products still legally contain asbestos

Several products contain asbestos. These products are mainly used in the construction industry. Asbestos is used to make heat resistant products, as an acoustic insulator and a thermal insulator. It is also used in building and fireproofing materials. Other products that contain asbestos include:-

  • Ceiling tiles
  • Vinyl sheet flooring
  • Roofing shingles
  • Acoustical plaster
  • Electrical wiring insulation
  • Caulking
  • Spackling
  • Adhesives
  • Chalkboards

Asbestos becomes hazardous only when it is disturbed, and the fibers become airborne

Friable is the substance formed when asbestos-containing materials are crumbled with hand pressure. When exposed to air, Friable may enter lungs and cause diseases. Non-friable materials do not emit airborne fibers. There are high chances of exposure when cutting, drilling, and sanding asbestos. It is advisable to use a licensed professional when renovating house as they are able to do the job according to laid down safety protocols.

Symptoms from asbestos exposure may take a long time to appear

The longer the period of exposure to asbestos, the higher the chances of getting related health complications. Although asbestos is noncancerous, it causes deadly respiratory diseases as asbestos fibers cause scarring in the lungs. This can, in turn, lead to heart problems, difficulty in breathing, and much pain. Mesothelioma causes tumor that spreads in the lungs with majority of cases attributed to asbestos. Many asbestos-related diseases take up to 40 to 50 years before showing signs and symptoms.

What the law says about asbestos exposure

The Fatal Accidents Amendment Act of 2008 offers compensation to victims who die from asbestos-related cancer and their families. The damages are paid for the pain and suffering caused and loss of enjoyment of life.

Several other laws have been passed to help asbestos affected people get justice and compensated. Among such laws is the Bernie Banton Law, named in honor of mesothelioma sufferer, who was a big campaigner of change in asbestos laws. This law allows asbestos-related cancers to seek compensation.

The 1958 Wrongs Act allows individuals seek full compensation if they experience loss of income due to illness caused by exposure to asbestos at their workplace. The Act was amended in 2006 to include victims who develop illness due to exposure from secondary source.

Tips for Safely Handling Asbestos

If you are removing asbestos materials on your own, you need to observe the following precaution:-

  • Make sure the work area is well sealed off with plastic sheets,
  • Turn off then air conditioning when working with asbestos materials,
  • Wear a respirator with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter,
  • When working with asbestos, wear protective gears like coveralls and gloves,
  • Clean the work area with wet wipes or a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter.

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