What is Asbestos?
According to the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA), asbestos is “the name given to a group of naturally occurring minerals used in certain products, such as building materials and vehicle brakes, to resist heat and corrosion.”
In total, the “group” of asbestos includes at least 6 different minerals, including chrysotile, amosite and crocidolite. Asbestos mines stretch across globe – from South Africa to Canada and Australia to the United States.
Where can Asbestos be found?
Since 1989, the use of asbestos minerals has been banned from use in manufacturing in the United States. Though many other economic heavy-weights have since banned or regulated the use of asbestos, it remains quite prevalent in industrialized society.
From an array of building materials, including adhesives, bonding cement, caulking and mortar, to ships and ocean going vessels commissioned by the government, asbestos was used in a variety of specialized and common products.
Universally, the widespread use and nature of asbestos was really brought to light in recent natural and manmade disasters, especially that of September 11, 2001. The total and complete destruction of the buildings at Ground Zero and those surrounding it released an incredible amount of asbestos – along with other hazardous materials – into the air.
Who is susceptible to Asbestos and why?
From the middle of the twentieth century onward, one of the highest at-risk groups were veterans. Every branch of the military – Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines – were exposed to asbestos, but those involved in ship building and ship repairs had the most exposure.
Further, the susceptibility to asbestos between men and women is considerable, but societal. Meaning, during the mid part of the last century, men mostly worked with asbestos on the job. However, women were also exposed to asbestos during that time, namely through secondhand exposure.
Asbestos fibers cling to all types of surfaces – including clothing and shoes – and were easily transported between locations, putting loved ones at risk.
Why is Asbestos so dangerous?
The naturally occurring minerals are not dangerous. When material is dislodged or disrupted from its intact state, the risk of exposure rises exponentially.
According to the National Cancer Institute, “[a]sbestos has been classified as a known human carcinogen (a substance that causes cancer) by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the EPA, and the International Agency for Research on Cancer.”
Though rare, the most commonly associated health condition linked to asbestos exposure is mesothelioma, a cancer that affects the delicate lining of the lung, heart and abdominal cavity. Asbestosis, a condition where scar tissue in the lung develops, and lung cancer are also diseases that result from prolonged asbestos exposure.
Asbestos Exposure Prevention Tips
- Always wear protective clothing, eyewear and masks when working in an environment with asbestos.
- OSHA requires that miners must wear respirators in unsafe areas.
- In private residences with suspected asbestos, hire a professional removal service.