What Are the Health Risks Associated With Asbestos?
Asbestos testing and inspection involves the examination of a building or a location for the presence of asbestos-containing materials (ACM). This is an essential procedure to be completed before demolishing or renovating your old house mandated by WorkSafeBC. It is possible that among other things, the insulation or the texture coat contains this element. If being removed or disturbed, it may be extremely hazardous to ones health and must be removed and disposed of appropriately to ensure the safety of you and your family.
What is Asbestos?
Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral. It has a unique fibrous nature and displays cotton-like consistency. It used to have several applications due to properties like sound absorption, high tensile strength and affordability. It displays extreme heat and fire resistance and was used for electrical insulation in buildings.
How Does Asbestos Exposure Happen?
ACM is not considered to be harmful unless it is friable (can be easily crumbled by hand, releasing fibres into the air). These dust or fibres can be inhaled or ingested by anyone in the vicinity. They remain airborne for several hours, increasing the risk of people coming in contact with them. Our body can get rid of it partially but most remain lodged in the tissues. The following situations are where this may happen:
• Ceiling or floor tiles, vinyl sheet flooring and other ACM containing materials won’t release fibres unless they are disturbed in some way. Water damage, aging and construction activities are some factors that can release asbestos in the air.
• Many workers at industrial and commercial sites are subjected to dangerous levels of asbestos. Many industries use heat-resistant protective equipment made of this mineral, which are a significant risk.
• Asbestos was used in the construction of military ships, vehicles and aircrafts. Therefore, the exposure was unavoidable for millions of personnel.
• Many companies manufactured insulation and siding products containing asbestos in the 1900s. Some consumer goods like hair dryers and crock pots also contained this material.
• Talc and asbestos deposits naturally occur in similar areas, which leads to the former getting contaminated while mining. Consumers using this product are at a higher risk of developing lung and ovarian cancer.
Secondary exposure occurs when individuals working in asbestos-contaminated environments bring home fibres (clinging to their clothes, skin or hair). These are transferred to those who might not have been exposed otherwise.
Health Problems Caused By Asbestos Exposure
Exposure to asbestos causes diseases like lung cancer, mesothelioma and asbestosis. Smokers are at a higher risk as smoking narrows air passages and makes it difficult for the lungs to remove the ingested fibres.
Mesothelioma is an aggressive cancer, occurring in the thin membrane lining of the lungs, chest, abdomen and heart (rare). People working in places manufacturing asbestos-based products or installing insulation containing this mineral are at a high risk. Some of the initial symptoms include shortness of breath, persistent cough and chest pain.
Lung cancer is usually diagnosed in people who are directly involved in the mining, manufacturing or use of asbestos products. Some of the common symptoms are:
Shortness of breath
Persistent chest pain
Difficulty in swallowing
Asbestosis is a serious, chronic and non-cancerous disease. Prolonged exposure to asbestos fibres aggravates pulmonary tissues, causing them to scar. The most common symptoms are shortness of breath and a dry crackling sound in the lungs while inhaling. The signs do not occur until after several years of constant exposure. This disease can also cause cardiac failure in its advanced stages. Exposure to asbestos fibres also causes ovarian and laryngeal cancer, among other non-cancerous diseases (like pleuritis and atelectasis). It usually takes around 10-50 years for the symptoms to develop after the initial contact.
There is no effective treatment for asbestosis; it’s usually disabling or fatal. The risk is lower for those who face secondary exposure.
Many countries have banned asbestos-based products and are regulating their use. But, some still mine and consume this toxic material in alarming quantities. Several precautions should be taken before the removal of this material and during its disposal. Proper protection equipment is mandatory while dealing with it.
Coast BC Hazmat Inspections provides asbestos testing to residential, commercial and industrial clients. Our dedicated team of professional consultants has the expertise to quickly and reliably assess your property. For more information about our services, contact us today!