Asbestos is a naturally occurring silicate mineral, composed of thin and long fibrous crystals. An asbestos fibre is composed of many very small fibrils that are slowly released into the air by constant abrasion. It is highly heat-resistant and also an excellent insulator for electrical devices. For decades, asbestos has been used as building materials, because it’s strong and has low heat conductivity. However, very small asbestos fibres could easily enter our body through normal breathing.
This is where the problem with asbestos begins. Although mucous membranes prevent much of the asbestos fibres from entering our lungs, long-term exposure to asbestos can cause severe health problems. Once accumulated in the lung, it’s not possible to remove asbestos fibres. Friable asbestos that crumbles easily is the most hazardous to our health.
Because asbestos fibres are inorganic silicate crystals, our body can’t break them down. Prolonged exposure to asbestos may cause the following health problems:
Asbestosis-Asbestosisis a chronic, but non-cancerous respiratory problem. Scars may develop in the lung tissues when we inhale asbestos fibres. Symptoms include a dry crackling sound when inhaling and shortness of breath. Severe asbestosis can be disabling, due to permanently impaired lung performance. It’s also a risk factor of cardiac failure.
Lung Cancer- asbestos fibres are a potent carcinogen and may affect workers in asbestos mines, in manufacturing facilities and during the installation of asbestos products. The risk of lung cancer is much higher when the affected person is also a smoker. Symptoms of lung cancer include changes in breathing, constant coughing, hoarseness, persistent chest pain and shortness of breath.
Mesothelioma- mesothelioma is a type of cancer that develops in the membrane lining of the lungs, abdomen, chest and sometimes heart. In the US, there are about 200 cases of mesothelioma each year. Asbestos exposure is the direct risk factor of mesothelioma. About 2% of asbestos mining workers and 10% of asbestos processing workers suffer from mesothelioma.
There’s no safe level for asbestos exposure, because once trapped in lungs, asbestos fibres will stay there permanently. Workers need to wear industrial-grade face mask that can effectively block asbestos fibres. Dusty surfaces in the industrial area must be sprayed with water and cleaned regularly. Family members should be careful when near old electrical fittings that still use asbestos as insulating material.
If you suspect that your home or business contains asbestos, experts recommend an asbestos survey performed by a health and safety consultant experienced in the removal of asbestos material.
Contact OJ Health & Safety
To learn more reasons why asbestos is bad for us and why you need an asbestos survey today, contact OJ Health & Safety today and speak with a Health and Safety Consultant who can answer any questions you might have.
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