Asbestos is Everywhere
Asbestos is the name given to a group of minerals that occur naturally in the environment as bundles of fiber which are resistant to heat, fire, and chemicals and do not conduct electricity.
It is most commonly found in older homes and industry, in pipe and furnace insulation materials, shingles, mill board, textured paints and other coating materials, and floor tiles.
Left alone and in good condition it is safe, with little or no health threat. But elevated concentrations of airborne fibers can occur after cutting, sanding or other remodeling activities disturb materials.
Improper attempts to remove these materials can release fibers into the air in homes, increasing the levels and endangering people in these homes.
We know that breathing high levels of the fibers can lead to an increased risk of:
- Lung cancer
- Mesothelioma - a rare cancer of the lining of the chest and the abdominal cavity
- asbestosis - where the lungs become scarred with fibrous tissue
The risk of lung cancer and mesothelioma increases with the number of fibers inhaled that have been released in the air and the risk of lung cancer increases if you smoke.
When disturbed materials release the fibers into the air and are breathed in, they may get trapped in the lungs and remain there for a long time accumulating and causing scarring and inflammation, which can lead to serious health problems.
Everyone is exposed to fibers, as they are present in the air, water, and soil. However, most people do not become ill from their exposure as it generally takes an exposure on a regular basis, most often in a job where they work directly with the material or through substantial environmental contact.
If you think your home may have asbestos, don't panic. Generally material in good condition will not release the fibers and there is no danger unless fibers are released and inhaled into the lungs.
- It is best to leave undamaged material alone if it is not likely to be disturbed.
- Use trained and qualified contractors for control measures that may disturb the material in question and for cleanup.
- Do not cut, rip, or sand material in question.
Several factors can help determine how exposure affects an individual, including:
- Exposure concentration - what was the concentration of fibers (i.e. how much)?
- Exposure duration - how long did the exposure time period last?
- Exposure frequency - how often during the that time period was the person exposed?
- Exposure makeup - What was the size, shape and chemical makeup of the exposure fibers?
Some asbestos Facts:
- When fibers are inhaled, most are expelled, but some can become lodged in the lungs and remain there throughout life. Fibers can accumulate and cause scarring and inflammations, which can affect breathing leading to disease.
- People are more likely to experience disorders when they are exposed to high concentrations, for longer periods of time, and/or exposed more often.
- Changes in the lining of the lungs (pleura) such as thickening, plaques, calcification, and fluid around the lungs (pleural effusion) may be early signs of exposure. These changes can affect breathing more than previously thought. Pleural effusion can be an early warning sign for mesothelioma (cancer of the lining of the lungs).
- Most cases of asbestosis or lung cancer in workers occurred 15 years or more after the person was first exposed.
- Most cases of mesothelioma are diagnosed 30 years or more after the first exposure.
- Health effects from exposure may continue to progress even after exposure is stopped.
- Smoking or cigarette smoke, together with exposure, greatly increases the likelihood of lung cancer.
- Some symptoms of the disease process from exposure include; shortness of breath, wheezing, persistent cough that gets worse, blood in the sputum, pain or tightening in the chest, difficulty swallowing, swelling of the neck or face, loss of appetite, weight loss, and fatigue or anemia.
The inhalation of fibers can cause serious illnesses, including mesothelioma, asbestosis, and lung cancer. If you suspect asbestos leave it alone and consult a qualified professional for advice.
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