Protecting Your Health: What Is Asbestos and How You Can Fight It

The world outside is pretty scary. It appears that anytime you set foot outside, something bad happens. Just look at the news stories nowadays. Luckily, nothing can happen to you when you’re safe inside your home right? Right, guys?

Actually, the truth might astound you. Your home could actually be exposing you to foreign particles that can negatively impact your health, in many cases, resulting in death or serious illness such as cancer. The culprit that we’re talking about here is a material that goes by the name of asbestos.

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Present in some homes and products, factories, business places and more, prolonged exposure to asbestos can lead to life-threatening risks. It also negatively impacts the indoor environment of any house it is in, by exposing them to a lot of diseases. So why is it in your house? How do you get rid of it? What risks does it pose? To answer all those questions and more, take a look at the points mentioned below:

What is Asbestos?

The funny thing is that asbestos is a material which isn’t man-made and is a naturally found silicate material, usually fibrous in nature. During the 20th Century, asbestos was also a popular material of choice and was used very generously by various industries ranging from construction materials and buildings to the railroad and automotive industry because of the versatility of use it had.

Unfortunately, at this time, the poisonous nature of asbestos was unknown. What was known was that asbestos is strong, is very heat resistant, water resistant, even withstanding chemical damage and can be used with a lot of versatility. This is why it was popularly used in roofing, pipes, and cement sheets, insulation materials, building materials, floor tiles, plastics, textiles and more.

During all this time, the average consumer was unaware of the health risk that asbestos posed. In fact, companies which were aware of the toxic nature of this material were very careful to hide it. It was only by the 1970’s that OSHA - Occupational Safety & Health Administration, stepped up and decided to make asbestos illegal.

However, OSHA’s regulations weren’t really taken very seriously. It took till the 1980’s and more public knowledge of the various health risks that asbestos exposed a person to which began to galvanize people into action and starting to avoid using this material. The interesting part here is that homes that were built before 1984 can have fixings, insulation boards and other materials which contain asbestos.

This isn’t just limited to asbestos in the house. Appliances and products that were crafted before 1984 could also contain asbestos particles, exposure to which can still put you at risk. Luckily, trade, use and manufacture of asbestos is now deemed illegal. However, there are still too many old products, old appliances and old homes that contain asbestos and have people living in them and using them without any clue about the dangers they face.

What Can Exposure to Asbestos Do to You?

Much like any other story about materials impacting your health negatively, it can be very easy to dismiss the claim that asbestos is extremely harmful to humans. The product is naturally found so how bad can it be?

Well, to answer that, whether it is natural or not, asbestos is very bad for the human body. In fact, it affects one like a carcinogenic, increasing and aiding the chances for one to develop different types of cancer. Moreover, the risk one faces is based on a dosage. The more exposure you have to it, the higher the chances you have for developing diseases which are related to asbestos.

Keep in mind that this doesn’t mean that if your exposure is low, you will be safe. Any exposure to asbestos is bad for you. Low exposure just lowers the risk you face. However, even if you have asbestos in your home, you’re not always going to feel the negative effects. It is when the asbestos fibers are airborne and enter the body through inhalation that one can develop diseases, including the following main ones:

  • Asbestosis - Asbestosis refers to microscopic scarring of the tissue of the lung. This occurs from the long-term inhalation of asbestos fibers. The symptoms do not manifest themselves very quickly and can take from around 5 to 20 years to become prominent. The scar tissue that forms makes lung stiffen, reducing their functionality. Other symptoms include breathlessness, persistent cough, lack of oxygen, tightness in the chest area.
  • Mesothelioma – Mesothelioma is a form of cancer and while it is rare, it can occur from prolonged exposure to asbestos fibers. It causes tumors to form in the lungs and the pleura and in some cases, tumors can be found in the intestines as well. The tumor is particularly aggressive and there is little to no cure for it since it spreads very easily and is difficult to remove. Moreover, the tumors can even occur around 40 years after a person’s exposure to asbestos. 
  • Pleural Plaques – Pleural plaques is a disorder of the pleura, which is the tissues that lines the lungs and the chest cavity. In this case, the pleura slowly starts to develop thick patches which can cause fluid to collect in the chest cavity, diminish lung function and more. Unfortunately, the symptoms of pleural plaques are not always obvious and an x-ray is usually required to determine its presence.
  • Cancer Cells - Cancer cells can occur anywhere in the body but exposure to asbestos fibers can leave one prone to getting cancer in the larynx, the ovaries or the lungs. In this case, it is not always possible to identify the presence of asbestos so further tests might be required to carefully determine the true cause of cancer.
  • The diseases mentioned above are some of the most common ones that you can face when you are exposed to asbestos. It is always a good idea to keep checking your health on an annual basis since many asbestos-related diseases do not give a lot of symptoms when they are just developing. Early detection can play a huge role in ensuring that one makes a safe and healthy recovery with ease.

    Who is at Greater Risk Here?

    While everyone is at risk when it comes to asbestos exposure, there are some people who can be impacted more by asbestos. It is necessary to pay attention to this factor so that you or someone else around you does not end up suffering from unwittingly become exposed to asbestos. While asbestos is illegal now, it was freely used before it was deemed illegal.

    For this reason, not only were the workers at risk, the family members of the workers also faced the risk of developing asbestos-related diseases because of the second exposure that they got. Once stricter regimens were imposed for the use of asbestos, there certain, safe amounts still used in factories and more for industrial purposes.

    Moreover, anyone with a weak immune system is at more risk from asbestos fibers. Children, senior citizens as well as an adult who has a smoking habit can all suffer from exposure to asbestos fibers. For this reason, it is very necessary to be vigilant since asbestos exposure can cause a lifetime of suffering for one.

    Where Can Asbestos Be Present in Your Home?

    Knowing the risks that you are exposed to from asbestos, it is a good idea to make sure that your home is safe and free of any kind of asbestos. Many times, new or old homeowners have been unaware of the presence of asbestos in their house. Moreover, exposure to asbestos occurs on a larger scale indoors more than anywhere else. However, a lot of the exposure also relies on the fact that when securely used, asbestos isn’t dangerous.

    On the other hand, if you are getting some work done such as new insulation panels and damage the asbestos ones, you and everyone around you are instantly exposed to danger. Another interesting scenario is the fact that as a house ages, many people often slack off in running timely repairs. This slacking off could mean that an asbestos panel could break, releasing fibers into the air and damaging the indoor air you

    The kind of exposure you face will rely greatly on the damage done to the asbestos, the location of the asbestos and the type of asbestos fibers that are being released. Moreover, the fibers are release usually through accidental physical action. Nonetheless, it is important to get check if you have asbestos in your home or not. A good idea is to always ask the previous home owner or resident to mention the age of the house.

    If that isn’t possible, start to look at places in the home that could contain asbestos such as:

    • Drainage pipes
    • Roofing material
    • Cement sheets
    • Backing material that is used for installation of floor tiles
    • Vinyl sheets
    • Areas around the fireplace, walls and windows that could have an insulation board used for thermal insulation purposes
    • Ceilings which are textured
    • Wall surfaces which are sprayed on
    • Insulation wraps which are installed around heaters, pipes and cylinders of hot water
    • Components of the spout and gutter of the house

    While most of this pertains to the structure of the house only, you should also be very careful about the household items you have. Family heirlooms and thrift shop buys may unwittingly have asbestos in them since the popularity of this material was such that it was widely used for the production of various items, including:

    • Oven gloves
    • The pads in ironing boards
    • Simmer mats that are used for stoves
    • Fire blankets
    • The clutches or the brakes of the car

    All these things that are found in your home can be the cause of asbestos exposure and poisoning to a person.

    What do you do to identify the Presence of Asbestos?

    When it comes to asbestos, it is better to let the professionals handle the process for you. If you feel that you and your family are at risk to asbestos exposure, be sure to call someone who is qualified in handling this situation. Once you have made the call, you need to wait for the experts to arrive. Samples from the materials in your home and the soil around your house will be taken and then tests will be run to identify the presence of asbestos fibers.

    Based on the tests, the professionals can then begin to work on the next step to take. This can either be to leave the asbestos product as is, to seal it off or to remove it completely from the premises. In many cases, the asbestos product can be left undisturbed and unharmed as long as it is not actively releasing asbestos fibers. Sealing off is done in scenarios where the asbestos object is damaged in some manner. By sealing it, they will be able to contain the asbestos fibers in one place and prevent the negative effects of the exposure being caused.

    Removing is done only in circumstances when the asbestos product is un-damaged, susceptible to damage or is in a place where sealing is not done. Once a legitimate course of action has been agreed upon, all you have to do is to step back and let the experts handle everything.

    If you are searching for a good professional for asbestos removal or to want to get the quality of your indoor air tested for the presence of asbestos, get in touch with Air Restoration. Specializing in fighting mold, testing the indoor air quality and also running health inspections for the presence of asbestos, Air Restoration’s experts can ensure that your home is safe and free of any asbestos exposure. To get an inspection or for more information about their services, send an email to info@airrestorationexperts.com or call on 519-721-6457

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