Even though the EPA began banning asbestos in some products in the 1970’s, it is still found in older buildings. Asbestos is also allowed in new products – from brake lining to window caulk.
How dangerous is asbestos?
The tiny fibers can cause lung disease, cancer and even mesothelioma – an aggressive cancer of the lungs and abdomen. Unfortunately, the consequences of asbestos may not be felt for 10 years or longer. Typically, most patients seen by doctors today are actually in their 60s, and many of them worked in naval shipyards, where asbestos was used frequently.
What’s the risk today?
The risk is mainly with homeowners or property managers, who may be renovating an older structure. People who work with old pipes may also be at risk. Asbestos can also be found in insulating jackets that are sometimes wrapped around heating systems or boilers.
Is the removal of asbestos regulated?
Fortunately, yes. The EPA has collaborated with most states to set up standards and systems for asbestos inspection and removal. The systems require training and certification for doing the work. OSHA has also gotten involved with asbestos, as they respond to complaints from workers who believe they may be working in unsafe areas.
How can the consumer keep informed?
First, it’s important for every property owner to know the age of the building they live or work in, and the condition of the materials in the structure. Concerns should be taken to your state or local environmental agency. If materials have deteriorated, it may be worthwhile to perform testing on them.
Naturally occurring asbestos.
The U. S. Geological survey publishes a map of locations where asbestos could be near the ground’s surface. Naturally occurring asbestos is only a health problem if it is disturbed. If you’re in such an area, be careful not to track dirt into your home.