Since the last few decades, asbestos has spread all over the place. In actual fact, if your home is over 20 years old and not being extensively remodeled or repainted, the chances are it will contain asbestos to some degree. Why substances like Asbestos used in the first place and what sort of damage to they do?
Asbestos is the name given to a number of naturally occurring fibrous silicate minerals that have been mined for their useful properties such as thermal insulation, chemical and thermal stability, and high tensile strength.
Asbestos was mined and used commercially in North America beginning in the late 1800s. Its use increased greatly during World War II. Since then, it has been used in many industries. For example, the building and construction industry has used it for strengthening cement and plastics as well as for insulation, fireproofing, and sound absorption.
Many of the asbestos victims worked in building trades. They were carpenters, joiners, shopfitters, plumbers, electricians, etc. They were exposed to asbestos dust in their day-to-day work with asbestos materials or because work with asbestos was carried out near them.
Asbestos is a carcinogen – that is, it causes cancer. Asbestos fibres lodge in the lungs and concentrates with repeated exposure and thus causes cancer of the lungs and stomach of people who experience prolonged exposed to the substance. The effects of lower exposures in the home are less well documented, but any exposure to the fibres can be considered dangerous. Asbestos is not always an immediate hazard. In fact, if asbestos can be maintained in good condition, it is recommended that it be left alone and periodic surveillance performed to monitor its condition.
If you are at all concerned, you should consider getting the professionals in to survey the home and take samples. In addition, the manufacturer of a product may be able to tell you whether the product contains asbestos. You should certainly not undertake extensive remodeling work on an older house without having a professional examine the house for the presence of asbestos.
To save yourself from the possible hazards of Asbestos poisoning hire a trained contractor if you planning any remodeling work that might damage the asbestos. Ask your local health authority or environmental office for information on licensed contractors.
Is there a danger of nonoccupational exposure and poisoning from the environment and products contaminated with asbestos fibers?
Asbestos is so widely used that the entire population has been exposed to some degree. Air, drinking water, and a variety of consumer products all may contain small amounts of asbestos. In addition, asbestos fibers are released into the environment from natural deposits in the earth and as a result of wear and deterioration of asbestos products. Disease is unlikely to result from a single, high-level exposure, or from a short period of exposure to lower levels of asbestos.