Asbestos has a variety of traits that make its use practical for a variety of applications. However, the harm that can be caused by exposure is well documented and people need to be aware of its use and the potential risks.
While the use of asbestos may have reduced since the years when these dangers became apparent, it is still used for a variety of commercial and industrial purposes. To learn more about asbestos and the risks associated with it, read the following guide.
Asbestos is a group of silicate minerals which are naturally occurring and can be found in places all over the world. The different asbestos compounds naturally form bundles of fibers and these fibers are resistant to heat, chemicals, fire and they do not conduct electricity. With properties such as these, many industries have found useful applications for these minerals.
When it comes to the asbestos that you will find in use, there are two main types; these are Chrysotile and amphibole.
Chrysotile asbestos is the white asbestos and it is the type that you will find most commonly used for industrial and commercial applications. There are several types of amphibole asbestos, but the one thing that they all have in common is the straight threads of the fibers, whereas the Chrysotile has curly or spiraling fibers.
Exposure to both of these forms of asbestos has been shown to increase the risk of cancer. Since asbestos is a naturally occurring compound, there are ways that a person could be subject to natural asbestos exposure.
The erosion of mineral formations that contain asbestos can release fibers into the air and it could contaminate a waterway with the asbestos. However, the natural exposures tend to be a lower risk factor than exposure from industrial or commercial applications.
The most common way in which a person may be exposed to asbestos is through inhalation. In the mining of asbestos or the production of materials that use asbestos, the fibers very easily go airborne and then those working in the area inhale the microscopic fibers.
Additionally, products like cement, roofing or insulation that may have asbestos in them will being to degrade over time and this can also release asbestos fibers into the air.
The risk of exposure can also come from ingestion. Food products and beverages could get contaminated with asbestos. Cement pipes that carry water may have asbestos and as the pipes age, asbestos could enter the water that flows through them.
Asbestos and Cancer
As mentioned above, it has been shown that exposure to asbestos can cause cancer. Most commonly, a person is exposed to asbestos by breathing it from the air. The fibers get stuck in the mucus linings of the lungs and this causes a variety of different illnesses. Specifically thinking of asbestos exposure, the most common risks come from lung cancer and mesothelioma.
Several scientific studies have demonstrated the connection between asbestos exposure and cancer. These include statistical analysis of the population and research where lab animals have been exposed to asbestos.
- Mesothelioma: This is a fairly rare form of cancer, but it is linked with asbestos exposure. This is a cancer that affects the linings of organs in the chest and abdomen. Studies have shown that it is most commonly associated with those who work with asbestos, their families and people that live near asbestos mines or factories.
- Lung Cancer: Studies have shown that people who work with asbestos have a greater risk of lung cancer. On average, it takes approximately 15-years from the time of first exposure to the diagnosis and the risk of lung cancer will increase with increased exposure.
- Various Cancers: Researchers have also demonstrated clear links between asbestos exposure and cancer of the ovaries and larynx. In addition to this, there is compelling evidence that exposure will also increase the risk of cancer to the stomach, throat and colon.
- Other Health Concerns: Asbestos exposure has also been associated with other respiratory conditions. Most notably, asbestosis is a condition where the fibers accumulate deep in the lungs, causing irritation, scarring and difficulty breathing.
For a person that may be at risk for asbestos exposure in the workplace, it is important to take the proper preventative measures. Safety procedures and the use of protective equipment will go a long way toward limiting exposure. If you have concerns about your workplace, then you should discuss the situation with your employer and onsite safety officials.
If you live in an older home and suspect the possibility of asbestos exposure, then you should have the home inspected by an expert. If a risk is found, then you will need to hire a qualified contractor to remove the asbestos from the home.
Asbestos exposure can have a devastating effect on the life of an individual. The best thing that a person can do is to limit their exposure to the substance, but for many, it may be too late.
Be aware of the danger, take steps to avoid exposure and seek examination and treatment if you have been exposed. Get a second opinion if necessary, and remember, you are not alone in this fight.