If you live or work in a structure built prior to the 1980’s there’s a good chance you could currently be at risk for asbestos exposure. This isn’t good and you may want to take some precautions. A little asbestos awareness education can go a long way toward making you more secure in your environment. Knowing the dangers and safeguards in this area is a good idea for everyone.
Asbestos was used liberally in many types of pre-1980’s building construction, when it was then determined to be a hazardous material and its used basically curtailed. It had many advantages when used in various building applications. It is lightweight, fireproof, strong and also non-conductive. It’s been used widely in ceilings, floors, walls and, especially, in the insulation of pipes, duct work and heating equipment.
Despite all the benefits asbestos brought to the table it has one main drawback. It’s a proven carcinogen. People with long-time exposure to asbestos have a strong chance of developing serious lung problems as they get older. This includes cancer.
Proper education regarding the dangers posed by asbestos and the precautions needed to ensure your safety is easy to acquire. It consists of knowing what areas in your home or workplace are likely to be a risk and how to address the current situation. In many cases the solution is to just leave the material in place without disturbing it. In other cases the asbestos will need to be removed, which is a very specialized operation. Workers handling asbestos are required to be properly trained and certified in dealing with this specific hazardous material.
Engineering and custodial staff face many hazards in the workplace but most of these are visible and somewhat obvious. Mechanical, electrical and chemical dangers are all routinely addressed and assigned regular maintenance schedules. Asbestos, however, is the ‘silent killer’ and is often present without notice or even peoples’ knowledge of its presence. Symptoms of asbestos exposure aren’t immediate and may take even decades to materialize but, once present, they can be deadly. Here’s why.
Asbestos is a mineral or rock. But, unlike other rocks which, when pulverized are reduced to grains much like sand, asbestos breaks down into small fibers. Like little strands of thread, these fibers are so small they can only be seen through a microscope. And, because the strands are so small and lightweight, they are easily suspended in the air and, subsequently, breathed into the lungs.
Asbestos is commonly found located above some older drop ceilings and was used extensively for soundproofing different surfaces during construction. Asbestos Containing Materials (ACM’s) need to be identified and isolated. Areas such as boiler rooms or HVAC closets that still contain asbestos should be marked as a potential hazard and entrance to these areas restricted.
Proper asbestos awareness training is the responsibility of every business that houses workers. It doesn’t take long to make people aware of the potential dangers and prudent safeguards in this area. An ounce of prevention is still worth a pound of cure.