Asbestos has been used in construction since long, and though they have been banned now, many properties are still reporting the presence of asbestos in their premises. Asbestos is an extremely dangerous material when inhaled, and the micro fibers can cause serious health damage to anyone getting exposed to asbestos.
An asbestos management plan can be a savior and can help you and the workers stay safe from asbestos. Here, we have detailed on the severe health implications of asbestos and what you can do to prevent the from happening.
When is Asbestos Dangerous?
The most common way for asbestos fibers to enter the body is by breathing. In fact, unless asbestos-containing substances release dust or fibers into the air to inhale or ingest, it is generally not considered harmful. Many fibers will become trapped in the mucous membranes of the nose and throat, which can then be removed, but some fibers can penetrate deep into the lungs or enter the digestive tract if ingested.
Once trapped in the body, asbestos fiber can cause health problems. Asbestos is most dangerous when it is brittle. Then it is easily crushed by hand, releasing the fibers into the air.
Roof tiles, floor tiles, lab cabinet covers, shingles, fire doors, wall panels, etc. that contain asbestos will not release asbestos fibers unless they are disturbed or damaged to some extent. For example, if an asbestos roof is punctured or broken, the fibers can be released into the air. If left alone without interference, it won’t. Damage and deterioration will increase the brittleness of asbestos-containing materials.
Water damage, constant vibration, aging, and physical shock such as drilling, grinding, polishing, cutting, sawing, or hammering can damage the material and facilitate the release of the fibers.
As asbestos fibers are difficult to destroy, the human body cannot break them down. They stay where they can cause disease. The three main diseases associated with asbestos exposure are:
- lung cancer
Asbestososis is a serious non-cancerous chronic respiratory disease. Inhaling asbestos fibers can aggravate lung tissues and scar them. Symptoms of asbestososis include shortness of breath and cracks in the lungs when inhaled. The disease can cause heart failure in the later stages. This disease is usually disabling or fatal. For people who do not use asbestos, the risk of asbestos disease is minimal. Those who renovate or demolish buildings containing asbestos may be at great risk, depending on the nature of the exposure and the precautions taken.
Lung cancer causes the highest number of deaths related to asbestos exposure. People who are directly involved in the extraction, processing, manufacture and use of asbestos and its products have a much higher incidence of lung cancer than the general population. The most common symptoms of lung cancer are coughing and changes in breathing. Other symptoms include shortness of breath, persistent chest pain, hoarseness, and anemia. People who have been exposed to asbestos and have also been exposed to other carcinogens (such as cigarette smoke) have a much higher risk of developing lung cancer than people who are not exposed to them. People who do not smoke or are exposed to asbestos are about 90 times more likely to develop lung cancer.
Mesothelioma is a rare cancer, found most often in the lining of the lining of the lungs, chest, abdomen, and (rarely) the heart. In the United States, approximately 2,400 to 2,800 cases are diagnosed each year. In fact, all cases of mesothelioma are related to asbestos exposure. Among all the miners and textile workers who do work with asbestos, 10% suffer from mesothelioma. The risk of mesothelioma is increased in humans who use asbestos and manufacture and install asbestos insulation materials. The same is true for people who live near asbestos mining areas, asbestos product factories, or shipyards with asbestos workers.
The determining factors for the likelihood of developing one of these asbestos-related diseases include:
The duration of exposure – the more you are exposed to asbestos and the more fiber enters your body, the more likely you are to have asbestos-related problems. Although there is no “safe level” of exposure to asbestos, people who are exposed more frequently for a long time are at higher risk.
Whether you smoke or not. If you smoke and have been exposed to asbestos, you are at greater risk. People who do not smoke and are not exposed to asbestos are more likely to develop lung cancer. If you are using asbestos or have been exposed to asbestos, the first thing to do is to quit smoking.
It has been found from studies that the younger population are at a greater risk of developing mesothelioma. That is why great efforts are needed to prevent elementary school students from being exposed. Since any exposure to asbestos will increase the body burden of asbestos fibers, it is very important to reduce the exposure.
An asbestos management plan is thus very much required, both to meet the legal criteria and to prevent any health hazards in anyone working nearby or with asbestos. Asbestos is dangerous only when inhaled, but don’t want to take the chance. If you suspect your premises have asbestos, the best thing would be to get it removed by some environmental specialists such as us.