Asbestos is a group of naturally occurring minerals, with thin microscopic fibers, found in rock formations. These fibers are not only strong but also resistant to fire, heat and chemicals. They are decent electrical insulators as well. Due to its insulating properties it is often mixed with a variety of other materials, especially cement, to produce various building products. Asbestos is extensively used in the construction and automotive industry.
How is it Dangerous?
Asbestos fibers can only be observed at a microscopic level. If products containing these fibers are disturbed, these tiny fibers are released into the air, since they are light; they can remain airborne over a long period and can also be carried over large distances by air or wind currents.
When these fibers are inhaled, they get trapped in the lungs, where they remain for a long period time. This may eventually lead to some serious health problems like asbestosis. This is an inflammatory condition of the lungs. It causes shortness of breath, coughing and actually scarring in the lungs that result in difficulty in breathing. Mesothelioma is another problem caused by untreated asbestos exposure. Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer that targets the chest cavity, lining of the lungs and the abdomen. Pleural plaques, pleural effusions and lung cancer can also be caused by asbestos fiber presence in the lungs.
When are Householders likely to be exposed to Asbestos?
If your house was built before 1980 there is a high probability that it contains asbestos based products. For houses built between 1980 and 1990 it is likely, but for those built after 1990, it is quite unlikely that they contain asbestos based products.
There are a vast variety of asbestos based products used in houses. One of the most common and obvious product is cement. This is used in variety of places, for example, roofing, shingles, interior and exterior wall cladding. Some not so common asbestos containing products include spray-on insulation or soundproofing, carpet underlay, heat-resistant fabrics, lagging and the backing material on floor tiles and vinyl flooring.
Since we are surrounded by such a large number asbestos based products, we must always be cautious of exposure. Exposure can occur accidentally. For example, by accidentally pushing your foot through a wall, while either putting something up on the wall or by accidentally walking on a ceiling sheet. You can even get exposed to asbestos while cleaning up garden debris.
One must be particularly careful while using power tools such a cutting tools, drilling machines, grinding, sanding and sawing machines. It is best to always wear a mask whilst using these tools. High-pressure water blasters for cleaning can also release the fibers of asbestos based products. One of the best ways to prevent fiber release from asbestos based products is to keep them in good condition. This can be done by painting them or through the use of other surface finishes and capping.
Once you have been exposed, you must immediately seek medical help and take action to prevent further exposure. Remove the broken or damaged items containing asbestos, wear a mask while handling those items and encourage family member to do the same. It is best to completely cordon off that area. Seek professional assistance to treat asbestos products, and be aware of new mesothelioma treatment options.
This article was contributed on behalf of Shrader & Associates, a law firm that provides a mesothelioma treatment guide. Check out their website today and see how they can help you!