Dangers of Asbestos Exposure
Most of the buildings in the United States were constructed with asbestos up until 1972. Back then, no one really had any idea that when inhaled, asbestos was deadly, but today, many people know that asbestos, when disturbed, becomes a serious health threat to human beings. Asbestos is a naturally-occurring material that was used commonly in buildings for insulation. Asbestos fibers are very strong and resistant to heat; asbestos is commonly found in ceiling tiles, pipes, and flooring.
Dangerous Material Asbestos is only dangerous when it becomes disturbed and gets in the air. This is commonly referred to as friable asbestos, while asbestos still intact is referred to as non-friable asbestos. Friable asbestos has become airborne and human lungs are susceptible to breathing it in. Research has not yet determined what a safe level of exposure to asbestos is, but one thing is known for certain: the more prolonged the exposure to asbestos, the greater the risk becomes for developing an asbestos-related disease.
Exposure to asbestos is often compared to smoking cigarettes. The more cigarettes you smoke, the greater the danger of developing lung cancer becomes. Likewise, the more you are exposed to asbestos, the greater the chance of developing an asbestos-related disease. For this reason, asbestos poisoning is often called an occupational hazard disease because people who work with it are the most at risk for developing a medical condition related to their inhalation of asbestos.
Asbestosis. This is caused when asbestos fibers are inhaled and become trapped in the lungs. The body tries to dissolve the fibers by producing an acid. The acid does not destroy the fibers but it does scar the lung tissue. Eventually the scarring becomes so severe that the lungs become unable to function. The time from exposure to asbestos to the manifestation of asbestosis is 25-40 years in most people!
Mesothelioma. This is a cancer of the outside tissue of the lungs and this cancer has been solely linked to asbestos. The time from exposure to manifestation of mesothelioma is 15-35 years!
Lung cancer. The chances of developing lung cancer after exposure to asbestos are greatly increased if you smoke. The exposure to manifestation period for lung cancer is also 15-35 years.
Most common early symptoms of asbestos-related disease:
A cough or a change in cough pattern
Blood in sputum
Pain in the chest/abdomen
Unfortunately, the symptoms of asbestos-related disease go unnoticed for at least 15 years. When the diseases manifest, doctors can determine (by x-ray typically) that there has been exposure to asbestos.
The risk of being exposed to asbestos is greatly increased by the presence of construction. Construction work on ceilings and flooring can cause asbestos to become friable. Non-friable asbestos-containing structures are often recommended to be left intact and not removed as physically disturbing asbestos poses a threat to human health. Asbestos does not chip away or decompose on its own. If asbestos is required to be removed, state laws require that certain precautions and procedures take place. These laws help to ensure the appropriate steps are taken and that all health and safety precautions are taken.
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