The mere presence of asbestos in a home or a building is not hazardous. Most of the time asbestos poses very little risk to your health. As a matter of fact, asbestos is naturally present in the environment in very low concentrations and most people will never experience problems related to exposure.
The danger is that asbestos containing materials may become damaged by deterioration over time or disturbed by structural renovation. Damaged asbestos may release asbestos fibers and become a health hazard. The fibers are a risk if they are released into the air where they may be inhaled.
Why Is Asbestos Dangerous?
Asbestos fibers and dust are a threat to human health when they are inhaled in higher-than-normal concentrations over a period of time. Industrial and trade workers are particularly vulnerable to exposure due to the nature of their work and the materials they encounter daily. Even second-hand exposure from washing clothing containing asbestos fibers can be dangerous.
There are several serious or fatal diseases associated with asbestos exposure:
- Asbestosis – extreme scarring of the lungs, causing shortness of breath. This is a serious condition, and it is potentially fatal.
- Lung cancer – appears similar to lung cancers caused by smoking. Because it is most often diagnosed in the later stages of the illness, it is usually fatal.
- Mesothelioma – a very specific type of cancer affecting lungs and digestive tract. Like other asbestos-induced lung cancers, it is usually fatal.
- Pleural thickening – the lining of the lungs thickens and swells, making it uncomfortable and difficult to breathe.
How to Reduce Asbestos Exposure
If you work in an industry where asbestos containing materials are present, such as in shipyards and the construction industry, make sure you receive proper training for handling asbestos. Also, always wear the recommended personal protective equipment. Symptoms of asbestos-related illness usually do not present themselves for 15-30 years after exposure, so it is important to be vigilant about protecting yourself.
If you live in an older home (constructed prior to the 1990s), you can visually inspect hot water pipes and HVAC ducts. Look to see if any materials are breaking apart or fraying. If so, do not touch or disturb this material and keep people and pets away. Then, follow CDC guidelines, such as:
- Avoid disturbing materials that may contain asbestos.
- Talk to a certified asbestos contractor if the materials need repair or removal.
- Only hire an experienced contractor to remove and dispose of contaminated materials.
Some materials may look like asbestos but are actually a fiberglass-based insulation product. These products are unlikely to pose a health threat. In any case, it’s best to call a professional who can safely identify it or take a sample for testing.
According to the United States Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration, there are no safe levels of asbestos exposure for any asbestos fibers. If you have any concerns about the presence of asbestos in your home or another structure, contact Paragon Environmental. Our certified technicians are experienced in handling asbestos, and you will have peace of mind knowing that your concerns are addressed thoroughly, professionally, and in full compliance with governmental agencies. Call us today at 303-529-1257.