First, the facts.
- Asbestos is a broad category of naturally occurring mineral fibers. They are generally identified by color — with blue, brown, white and green being those best known. Chrysotile, “white” asbestos, is the predominant form. Estimates say that more than 90% of asbestos is Chrysotile.
- It is a definitive human hazard. The EPA provides its own plain guide to the health effects, as well.
- The danger depends on exposure. A building whose asbestos is improperly removed — but removed nonetheless — can pose a greater danger than one with asbestos still intact. Exposure depends on the location. Asbestos has been commonly found in schools and office structures because it resisted heat. The natural fibers of white asbestos (in particular) are very strong. It is a solid construction material. But if asbestos is left alone, sometimes we’re better off. Disturbance is worse than staying sealed away. The best solution is always going to be a safe, professional removal.
- The EPA only requires asbestos’s removal when a building is being completely taken down or thoroughly renovated. This is to reduce the chance of public exposure. Certain renovations are possible without total removal, however. There simply needs to be a plan to manage and contain the asbestos fibers.
- This substance is not exclusive to buildings. There are many uses for it beyond insulation. You can imagine anything you own that is supposed to resist heat or insulate: furnaces, fabrics, and even cars.
There are many diseases correlated to asbestos exposure in humans, but these have been documented as the most common and most serious:
A chronic lung disease, this comes from long-term exposure to asbestos. This can take around fifteen years to manifest. Lung tissue becomes scarred over time and the individual experiences shortness of breath. Such breathing problems, however, worsen your chances of other heart-related illnesses.
Lung cancer is the primary risk. It is seriously exacerbated by smoking — one more reason to quit. Other types of cancer have also been proven possible, such as kidney and gastrointestinal cancers.
Called “malignant mesothelioma,” this is incurable. It is a type of large tumor, usually located inside the abdominal cavity of the body. Symptoms appear similar to asbestosis and even cancer: cough, shortness of breath, chest pain, and weight loss.
The Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization provides many resources on these health concerns.
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