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What Is Asbestos and Why Is it Harmful?

Asbestos may sound like the name of candy, but it is neither tasty nor edible. It is quite the opposite. It is so harmful that it was slowly removed from construction planning in Australia in the 1980s and was officially banned in 2003.

What can be so bad about asbestos for it to get banned from usage? According to reports and studies, a series of health problems around residential and construction sites were traced back to the material.

The sheer scale of the problem led to extensive awareness campaigns about its harmful effects and led the government to take necessary action to prevent further problems.

What Is Asbestos?

The best way to gain insight into this topic is to first understand what asbestos is. Asbestos is a naturally occurring fibre-like mineral found in rock and soil. Each fragment is extremely fine and resistant to heat, chemicals, and electricity. Asbestos became a popular raw material for insulation and building construction due to its resistance properties in the early 1900s.

Where Was It Used the Most?

The core form and properties of the substance made it extremely useful for a variety of construction and insulation projects. Following were some of the most common projects they were used for:

  • Vinyl tile flooring
  • Shingles and siding
  • Attic and wall insulations
  • Heat-resistant fabrics
  • Fireplace thermal insulations
  • Water pipes

These parts are used for most residential and non-residential housing, which meant asbestos was present in commercial and non-commercial areas. It was also used to make ropes or for decorative coating, among other things.

Why Is It Considered Harmful?

The prevalent use of asbestos resulted in several ailments and diseases over 60 years before doctors realised the core problem. Due to its fibrous and diminutive form, asbestos can enter the body easily through breathing, making its way into the lungs. Additionally, you may also accidentally consume it when its dust settles on the food you’re eating, getting trapped in your digestive tract.

The possibility of it making its way to either lungs or our digestive tract is a major cause for concern and has been linked to three main diseases.

1. Lung Cancer

Many people with asbestos exposure developed lung cancer and many of them eventually passed away as a result. Most of the lung cancer cases came from people who were involved in mining and milling of asbestos or manufacturing projects that used asbestos-based materials.

Asbestos exposure has caused damage similar to the type caused by smoking and increases the likelihood of the exposed person developing lung cancer at some point in their life.

2. Asbestosis

Named after the mineral itself, this chronic but non-cancerous disease only infects people with asbestos exposure. Asbestosis is caused by asbestos fibres and dust settling inside the lungs, damaging the lung tissue, and causing scarring.

The disease causes coughing and shortness of breath alongside lung scarring and damage. Patients usually develop symptoms like chest pain or oddly round fingernails and toenails a few years after a major exposure.

In its worst state, asbestosis can cause cardiac failure at a later stage in life.

3. Mesothelioma

Mesothelioma is also a type of cancer. However, it is rare and affects up to 800 people in Australia annually. Mesothelioma affects a thin lining of the lungs, chest, abdomen, and, in some rare cases, the heart. You are most likely to develop it if you were involved in mining or milling of asbestos or were directly exposed to someone who worked in professions with high asbestos exposure.

Common symptoms of this cancer include fatigue, breathing issues, coughing, or constipation. You will typically be asked to get a CT scan or chest X-ray if the doctor suspects you may have this cancer.

How Can I Get Infected?

Although the 2003 ban on asbestos in Australia has drastically cut down the number of people affected by the disease, asbestos-related diseases from prior exposure or accidental exposure still emerge annually.

Because of how common it was for over half a century, remanets of asbestos exist in the air around us. However, these quantities are too small for them to cause damage. Following are some of the most common ways you can become dangerously exposed to asbestos:

  • You are or were directly involved in the mining and milling of asbestos or a part of factories producing asbestos-based materials.
  • You were directly exposed to someone working in the fields mentioned above.
  • You live or lived near an asbestos mine.
  • You lived in a house with several asbestos-based materials.
  • You were involved in construction using asbestos-based materials.
  • You were exposed to the demolition or remodelling of a building that used asbestos in construction.

Given how small the asbestos dust or fibres are, it was easy for people with greater exposures to become infected without realising it. Since asbestos-related diseases take a few years to emerge, it was also difficult for people to determine whether they had been infected or not.

How to Get Asbestos Removed

Given how dangerous asbestos can be, it is not recommended for someone without any prior training on the matter to attempt removing asbestos themselves. It will not only put them in danger but can also negatively impact people in the vicinity or those they have regular contact with.

You can always rely on professionals like iSeekPlant since they are licensed and have adequate training for asbestos’ secure removal to get the job done because it is the safer option.

If you fear that you have been exposed to asbestos recently, make sure to consult your physician and let them know. They will let you know if the exposure was potentially dangerous or not.

Final Thoughts

To sum up, asbestos is an extremely dangerous mineral to be exposed to in concentrated quantities. Make sure you stay protected against it by avoiding the area that may contain abundant concentrations of the mineral. Be safe and always take the right precautions.

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