Asbestos is a mineral substance that can be pulled so that it has a fluffy consistency. Asbestos fibers are soft and flexible, yet resistant to heat, electricity, and chemical corrosion. Asbestos works really well being used as an insulator, and can be mixed into cloth, paper, plastic, and other materials to make it stronger. These characteristics make asbestos very useful, however, asbestos is still very toxic.
Materials that contain asbestos are not considered to be harmful unless they are released into the air.
The most common way for asbestos fibers to enter the body is through breathing. Asbestos fibers are very difficult to be obliterated – once it is entered into the body, it remains there, where it can cause diseases. The most common diseases that are associated with asbestos exposure include lung cancer and mesothelioma. Inhaled asbestos fibers can irritate lung tissues, which can cause the tissues to scar. Continued exposure to asbestos can also cause shortness of breath and stiffness of the lungs.
Ceiling tiles, floor tiles, and cabinet tops will not release asbestos fibers unless they were disturbed or damaged in any way. Damage and deterioration will increase the friability (ability to be easily crumbled or broken down) of asbestos-containing materials. Water damage and physical impact such as drilling or sawing can easily cause the materials to release the fibers.
Individuals are more susceptible to asbestos related disorders if they are exposed to high concentrations of asbestos, if they are exposed to longer periods of times, and/or if they are exposed to asbestos more frequently. The World Health Organization has reported that around 125 million people are exposed to asbestos every year.
As dangerous as asbestos can be, it is not always a cause for concern. Asbestos can be maintained utilizing techniques such as encapsulation, which involves applying a thick layer of latex paint to the surface, which in turn keeps the material together and prevents harmful fibers from being released. If situations where asbestos is being used are unavoidable, it is important to wear a face mask in order to protect your respiratory system.
Written by Dami Falade