Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral which contains properties that make is resistant to heat and corrosion. It’s also an effective insulator and can also strengthen cloth, cement, plastic and other materials.
Consequently, asbestos was commonly added to the compound used to make building materials. Up until the mid-1980s, and possibly throughout the 1990s for renovation projects, asbestos was commonly found in the building fabric of many homes and office buildings.
Yet for all the good qualities of asbestos, the fibres are highly toxic. Its fibres break down into microscopically thin particles that become trapped in the body.
Prolonged exposure to fine particles of asbestos dust can cause chronic respiratory problems including lung cancer. An aggressive cancer called mesothelioma is exclusively associated with asbestos.
When asbestos is inhaled, the fibres caught in lung tissue cause inflammation, scarring and genetic damage. According to the Health & Safety Executive, approximately 20 former tradesmen die every week as a result of asbestos exposure.
How Does Asbestos Get Into The Lungs?
It should be noted that whilst asbestos is contained in materials it is not harmful. It only becomes potentially dangerous when materials are broken by hammering, drilling or natural corrosion.
When asbestos-contaminated materials are breached, minuscule asbestos fibres become airborne. It is whilst they are in the air that they are breathed into the lungs.
Because asbestos particles are microscopic, they are invisible to the naked eye. It is impossible to know whether you are inhaling them. Moreover, asbestos does not make you sneeze, nor will it make your skin or throat itch.
Other than several types of serious cancers, exposure to asbestos can cause debilitating diseases including pleural thickening and asbestosis. It can also create problems with your digestive system and contribute to colon cancer.
When Does Asbestos Become Dangerous?
There is still some debate over what level of exposure to asbestos are potentially damaging. In the UK, local governments admit that almost every household could be exposed to small quantities of asbestos.
Local council’s claim that exposure to low levels of asbestos is not dangerous. People that are most at risk of asbestos poisoning are trade workers that come into contact with pipes, roofs, boilers, walls, and other professions where building work takes place.
Health experts in the United States take a different view. The Department of Health in Minnesota, for example, claims that “no amount of asbestos is considered safe.”
Products that have an asbestos content of more than one per cent are considered harmful if inhaled. Obviously, the more asbestos you are exposed to, the more likely it is to cause damage.
Asbestos also has a long latency period. It can take between 10 and 40 years before the effects of asbestos are felt. That means it’s more likely to impact your quality of life in old age.
Moreover, there is no cure for diseases caused by asbestos. The only way to avoid the dangers presented by asbestos is to eliminate the risk of exposure. If you are concerned you or your family may be exposed to asbestos contact our fast response service team for advice and assistance.