What is Asbestos? How Are We Exposed to it?

construction worker using a handheld demolition hammer and wall

When someone mentions asbestos, we tend to cringe and have visions of worse case scenarios. The truth is, that if you live in an older home, there may be evidence of exposure in the building materials used during construction. Should you worry? We know now, that if those materials aren’t disturbed, exposure to the harmful effects of asbestos is limited.

Asbestos exposure at work. There are those, however, who may have exposure to asbestos on a daily basis – a home renovator, for example. And people in the military are sometimes exposed to asbestos. Asbestos is sometimes found in chemical plants and power plants. And there are products that are still being made throughout the world that contain asbestos. Products such as brakes, spark plugs, mufflers and air conditioning systems in cars can contain asbestos. As a result, auto mechanics may be at risk of exposure to asbestos. This article from provides a very thorough overview of exposure to asbestos.

What you should know as a homeowner. The risk of asbestos exposure occurs when the microscopic asbestos fibers become airborne. Once they become airborne, these particles may remain in the air for 48-72 hours. Prolonged exposure to asbestos can result in adverse health effects. In an older home, asbestos might be in the tile, under wood flooring or in the roofing. But if left undisturbed, there is little risk for someone to inhale or ingest it. If there is renovation going on and materials are cut, sanded, drilled or disturbed in any other way, the possibility of asbestos being found in the air is high. For this reason, anyone renovating an older home should have appropriate areas tested for asbestos.

What are some of the adverse health effects of exposure to asbestos? Prolonged exposure to asbestos can result in both cancerous and non-cancerous diseases. Asbestosis occurs in people who have had very high exposure for a long time. Asbestosis presents itself as difficulty breathing. Less efficient lung function is a cause of pleural disease, which may also cause a build-up of fluids around the lungs. Lung cancer and mesothelioma are two types of cancer that can develop as a result of exposure to asbestos.

Reducing your exposure to asbestos. Clearly, if you are around exposure at work, you should have the proper training for handling asbestos and you should wear the proper equipment. If you live in an older home, avoid disturbing materials that might contain asbestos. You can talk to your local or state environmental agency if you are unsure of the materials in your house. And if you are doing any renovating in the house, be sure to hire contractors who are knowledgeable and follow the law regarding safe asbestos removal. For more information on reducing exposure, check out this article from the CDC.

If you are planning a renovation in your home, or have already started renovating, Paragon can remove any asbestos. We follow strict OSHA, EPA and CDPHE guidelines. Give us a call at 303-529-1257. All please take a look at our website to learn more about our expertise.

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