Asbestos in Residential and Commercial Properties – Learn the Facts!

The recent closing of a Colorado Springs food market is a reminder that asbestos presents an ongoing threat to human health. While governmental laws and regulations have severely limited the mining and manufacture of asbestos for almost 50 years, asbestos can still be found in homes, buildings, and a wide variety of products from roof shingles to brake pads.

Learn the facts and keep yourself and your family safe.

What is asbestos?

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), asbestos is a mineral fiber naturally occurring in rocks and the soil. Its remarkable strength and heat resistance have led to its extensive use in various construction materials, serving as insulation and a fire retardant.

What products contain asbestos?

Asbestos can be found in manufactured goods such as floor and ceiling tiles, roof shingles, paper products, cement products, insulation, textured paint, patching compounds, heat resistant fabrics, gaskets, and more.

What diseases are associated with asbestos exposure?

There are three primary diseases associated with asbestos exposure: asbestosis, mesothelioma, and lung cancer. Asbestosis is a serious, chronic, non-cancerous respiratory disease. Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer most often occurring in the thin membrane lining of the lungs, chest, abdomen, and (rarely) heart. This cancer is exclusively associated with asbestos exposure. Finally, lung cancer causes the largest number of deaths related to asbestos exposure.

How does asbestos exposure occur?

Exposure can occur at home, the workplace, school buildings, commercial or community buildings, and even in nature. According to the National Cancer Institute, if raw asbestos or products containing asbestos are disturbed, tiny fibers are released into the air. When asbestos fibers are breathed in, they can get trapped in the lungs. Over time, these fibers can accumulate and cause scarring and inflammation, which can lead to the serious health problems mentioned above.

Is asbestos still a problem?

Yes, very much so. Because it was used so widely and heavily for decades, asbestos is likely to be found in older structures built prior to the 1970s. “Vintage” homes and aging commercial buildings could harbor legacy asbestos that is beginning to deteriorate or could be disturbed through demolition or renovation. Further, since asbestos-related illnesses can take 40+ years to manifest themselves and a total ban on its use has not been enacted, new cases continue to appear at present. The good news is that regulations continue to tighten, such as the recent new requirements by the EPA.

What should I do if I suspect my home or workplace contains asbestos?

In older homes its best to assume that asbestos containing materials are present. If your home is in good condition and you are not planning on renovation projects, chances for exposure are low. However, an inspection by a trained, certified, and experienced professional will put your mind at ease. They can locate any asbestos in your home and determine how to proceed safely. Worker exposure to asbestos hazards is addressed in specific Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards for the construction industry, general industry, and shipyard employment sectors. Since there are no safe levels of asbestos exposure, it is essential to follow the established safety protocols and wear required personal protective equipment.

Even if a total ban on asbestos becomes a reality, legacy asbestos will be around for quite some time. While progress continues, it is wise to remain informed about how to deal with this lethal substance in the meantime. For example, if you worked in a high-risk area, such as a shipyard, see your doctor regularly and be transparent about your occupational history. And always seek the help of an experienced, certified professional if you suspect asbestos is present in your home.



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