Asbestos, which was hailed as a “wonder fiber” in the 20th century, is actually a mineral that can be found in many parts of the earth. It has long, thin fibers that can be woven into any product. They are heat-resistant, have low electrical conductivity and are very flexible. This has made them a wonder fabric of the 20th century.
Asbestos and Health
If Asbestos is just a mineral, why is it harmful? The mineral by itself is harmless but when the woven fibers are damaged or when they disintegrate, they release fibers into the atmosphere. These fibers enter human body through air and they cannot be removed from the body. They remain there, attaching themselves to lungs and other tissues. Over a period of time, these fibers cause inflammation and will result in the growth of cancerous tumors. The main area that is affected is the Mesothelium or the lining of the lungs. Other possible places that can be affected include Peritoneum, which is the lining of the stomach and Pericardium, which is the lining of the heart. A person who was exposed to asbestos briefly and casually will not be affected. However, constant exposure will cause cancers. There is a non-cancer disease called Asbestosis, which is also caused by long term exposure to asbestos- products. This caused by the constant irritation of these fibers in the lungs. Over a period of time, the tissues are scarred and it gets for difficult for the oxygen to get mixed with the blood. There is unfortunately, no treatment for Asbestosis. This is the primary reason for asbestos testing. This is done to ensure that you are not exposed to asbestos.
Smoking increases your chances of getting asbestos-related diseases like lung cancer, mesothelioma and asbestosis. This is because the combined effect of smoke and asbestos is very dangerous and increases your chances of contracting these diseases. Family members of people who have been exposed to asbestos, also have a very high chance of contracting these diseases. This is due to the asbestos-dust that is brought home by the person unknowingly. The dust can cling onto personal belongings of the people who are exposed to it and when they get home, it is automatically passed on to other family members. So, it is very natural that asbestos testing must be done from time to time in your home.
The main aspect of these diseases is that they can take a few decades to develop. This is the reason why many people suffering from asbestos-related diseases today are those that have been exposed to it in World War II shipyards. By the time a person realizes that he or she has problems related to asbestos-exposure, it would be too late. This is the reason why it is banned in many countries like USA, European Union, Chile, Croatia, Australia, Argentina and Saudi Arabia and these countries also have laid down guidelines for asbestos testing.
Usage of Asbestos
Asbestos has been used in many buildings that were built during the 20th century. It is a common element found in many roofs because of it's heat resistance. It has been widely used in thermal insulation, acoustic insulation, roofs, floors, insulators and fire-proofing. A lot of these products may still be in use. EPA (United States Environmental Protection Agency), has identified the following products that contain asbestos as dangerous. When you encounter any of the below mentioned products, it is better to perform asbestos testing right away. The products are:
l Corrugated sheets made of cement and asbestos
l Asbestos Friction Products that are used both commercially and industrially
l Facings of the clutch
l Roll boards
l Flat Sheets made of cement and asbestos
l Coatings on roof
l Brake Pads
l Pipes made of cement and asbestos
l Pipeline wrap
l Vinyl or asbestos tiles used on floors
l Brake Linings
l Corrugated paper
l Shingles made of cement and asbestos
l Automatic Transmission products
l Brake Blocks
l Mill boards
These are the products that are listed by EPA as dangerous. These products may or may not be dangerous in their original shape and form but they can release asbestos-fibers when they are damaged or destroyed. Prolonged exposure to these products is hazardous to health. Frequent asbestos testing can mitigate the damages to a large extent.
Prevention of Asbestos Related Diseases
The first step to prevent asbestos-exposure is to identify the possible products that contain asbestos. If you are unsure, it is better to do asbestos testing. As a homeowner, some of the products that may contain asbestos and need to be looked out for are:
l Siding Shingles made of cement
l Asbestos was used as an insulator in houses built between 1930 and 1950. So, if your house was built during that time, then you may have to check for the insulation.
l Textured paint will contain asbestos in houses built before 1977. So, you can check there if your house was built before that year.
l Gas fireplaces that used artificial ash or embers
l Old stove-top pads
l Some vinly floor tiles may contain asbestos
l Hot water and steam pipes in older houses
l Coal and oil furnaces
l Furnace ducts that have been insulated with asbestos
l Sound proofing materials, decorative materials or any other loose water damaged materials can release asbestos-fibers.
l Door Gaskets in furnaces
l Worn Seals
Once identified, the best idea is to leave the product which is in good condition, untouched. This is because the asbestos-fibers will be released only when they are damaged. Do asbestos testing regularly. If you find any kind of damage or wear and tear, dispose off the product. EPA has laid down many rules and regulations for the safe disposal of these products. You can follow them or you can also take professional help to remove these products. Any asbestos consulting company will help you in this process. If you are planning to remodel your house, the first step is to identify the products that contain asbestos.The next step is to do asbestos testing after which the products can be removed and disposed safely.
How can you find out if a particular product contains asbestos or not? If in doubt, take professional help to do asbestos testing. This way you can be sure that you are not neglecting the products that contain them. Also, a sample of the product can be sent to laboratories to determine if they contain asbestos. It is better to take professional help from asbestos consulting companies when taking a sample. This is because if the product is damaged at the time of sampling, then it will become a health hazard. Also, you can take samples only from products that may be damaged or destroyed. A product in good condition may be left undisturbed.
There are two ways to correct the asbestos-related problems. They are repair and removal. The asbestos-products can be covered and sealed with a material so that the asbestos-fibers are not released into the air, even if it gets damaged. Pipes and furnaces can be corrected this way. The other solution is to remove the product without causing damage. Again, it is better to take the help of asbestos consulting companies for this process.
As a homeowner, there are some do's and dont's that must be followed if you think you have any product that may contain asbestos.
l Do not go in the vicinity of a damaged product that you think may contain asbestos.
l Utmost care must be taken to ensure that asbestos products in good condition are not damaged.
l Take the help of asbestos consulting companies while removing any damaged product.
l Don't try to vacuum or sweep the debris caused by asbestos products. If at all you want to do it, use special HEPA vacuum cleaners.
l Try not to scrape the surface of these products.
l It is better to hire asbestos consulting contractors even to do small minor repairs to these products.
l If your family member is suffering from chest pains, shortness of breath, cough and severe weight loss, then seek medical attention immediately.
l Removing a product poses the biggest risk and must be done only as a last resort.
When the above mentioned steps are followed, the chances of getting exposed to asbestos is drastically reduced for you and your family. As this is a banned substance, it will not be used in new homes. But nevertheless, you can make sure that it is not used.
When you take the help of asbestos consulting professionals, check their background. You must ensure that they are properly supervised and they have the right kind of equipment to safely clean and remove asbestos products without causing harm to themselves and others.
All victims of asbestos-related diseases may take a legal course of action. People who have worked in plumbing, steel, insulation and electrical industries have very high chances of suffering from asbestos-related disease. In fact, they could have even passed it on to their family members through the dust that could have clung to their shirts, shoes and other personal belongings. These people can contact a qualified lawyer who specializes in such cases. The lawyer may be able to explain the legal options. With the help of an experienced and competent lawyer, you may be able to claim economic and non-economic damages for the suffering you have endured. This compensation can include your medical expenses and loss of income.
Thus, it is very important that you know the benefits of asbestos testing and take the right steps to protect not only you and your family but the environment as a whole.