This blog will be the first of two on asbestos. The first, below, will address some important facts relating to asbestos that we should be aware of. The second blog will highlight the EPA & OSHA regulations concerning asbestos and the disturbance of materials containing asbestos.
What is Asbestos? Asbestos is a mineral. Asbestos is a natural rock that is mined from the ground in several locations worldwide and is, therefore, not a man-made fiber like fiberglass. It has been used for centuries. Asbestos, most recently, has been used in building materials.
When is Asbestos dangerous? Asbestos fibers are so small that they can easily get into your lungs while breathing. It will not make you cough, sneeze or itch after you breathe the fibers. Asbestos fibers that become trapped in your lungs can cause disease and death many years later.
If Asbestos is so dangerous, then why is there so much of it? Asbestos is a very good fire, heat and sound insulator and is very strong. Pound for pound, asbestos is actually stronger than steel.
Asbestos is primarily found in old buildings. Newer buildings built since the 1980’s have less asbestos in them. However, this does not mean that asbestos is not present. Suspected asbestos containing materials (ACM) should be surveyed prior to their disturbance. Asbestos is in more than 3,000 different products and is in many building materials. Building materials that are most likely to have asbestos in them are sprayed-on insulation, pipe and boiler insulation, duct insulation, floor and ceiling tile, wall boards, sprayed-on textures and mastics.
How can we identify asbestos? You cannot visually assess with the human eye if a product contains asbestos. Many building materials look the same whether they have asbestos in them or not. If you think something may be asbestos, assume that it is asbestos. The only way to tell if something contains asbestos is to have it evaluated by a lab. Confirmation of the presence or absence of asbestos in any building material should be done prior to disturbing it.
Where might asbestos be in my home?
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How much asbestos is dangerous? There is no amount of asbestos that is proven to be safe. The more you are exposed to the more likely you are to get an asbestos-related disease. All of the asbestos-related diseases are all dose-related except one. Asbestosis, lung cancer and digestive system cancers are all dose-related diseases associated with asbestos. The one disease that is different is called Mesothelioma. Very small amounts of asbestos can give you Mesothelioma. Asbestos worker’s families have even gotten Mesothelioma from the dust the worker’s brought home on their clothes. There is NO amount of asbestos that has proven to be safe.
How long does it take to get sick from asbestos? All of the asbestos diseases have a latency period of ten to forty years after you breathe it. The latency period is the time frame between the time you breathe asbestos and the time you start to feel sick. Even if you have worked with asbestos for a very short time or had one exposure, you still may get sick ten to forty years later. The only cure for asbestos-related diseases is to prevent them.
I hope this information has helped you understand what asbestos is, why it has been used and why it is a danger to our health. If you have any questions relating to asbestos please feel free to contact me directly as I will be happy to help (727-515-8730). Protecting the safety of our fellow man should always be our first concern.