National Poison Prevention Week: The Dangers of Asbestos

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), poisoning is the leading cause of injury-related deaths in the United States, with about 2 million poisonings reported each year. Many people don’t even really consider the potential risks in their homes or the world around them. No matter what precautions are taken – such as keeping chemicals stored away and putting medicines out of children’s reach – unintentional poisoning can happen to anyone.

This week is National Poison Prevention Week, which offers a time to reflect on how we can reduce the risk of poisonings in our homes, offices, and other places we visit. The CDC defines a poison as any substance that can cause harm from being inhaled, ingested, eaten, or injected into the body. Though we might not typically think of asbestos as a poison, when it becomes damaged the fibers can be easily inhaled, which can cause serious health problems over time.

With better education and more awareness, we can help prevent these poisonings and change the statistics.

Asbestos Spans a Lifetime

One theme during this week, which is sponsored by the National Poisoning Prevention Council, is the idea that Poisonings Span a Lifetime. Poisoning can happen to anyone at any age. In the case of asbestos, exposure can happen at any age, but the health consequences won’t be evident until decades later.

When asbestos becomes disturbed in some way, its fibers may release into the air and be inhaled. Once inhaled, the fibers can become stuck to the linings of our lungs, and over time they can cause scarring and inflammation, eventually forming tumors.

No amount of exposure to asbestos is considered safe. Over a longer or more intense exposure to the toxin, an individual is even more likely to develop mesothelioma or another asbestos-related disease.

Mesothelioma is a rare cancer most often associated with the elderly, since those diagnosed are typically between 50-70 years old. This is because there is a long latency period of 20-50 years after asbestos exposure before symptoms might start to appear. A diagnosis can be made even more difficult since the initial symptoms are often mistaken for other common ailments like the flu.

There is no cure for mesothelioma, despite some advancements in treatment options in recent years. It’s estimated that 20 million people are at risk of developing mesothelioma at some point in their lives, so prevention is crucial.

Preventing Asbestos Exposure

Being aware of the dangers of asbestos and where to find it can help save a life. Exposure to the toxin is the only known cause of mesothelioma. Since asbestos is not yet banned in the United States, we must all be vigilant to help prevent exposure.

Here are some simple ways to help protect your family from asbestos exposure:

Be aware of your environment: Many old buildings, including schools and homes, built before the 1980s likely contain asbestos. It’s also been used in a variety of products, like hair dryers. Being knowledgeable of where to find asbestos can help you take precaution to avoid the toxin or have it safely removed.

Educate yourself on your child’s school: If there is asbestos present, the school needs to have an asbestos management plan in place. Keep updated on any potential renovations or construction in the school that could disturb the asbestos. If you have any concerns, talk with the trained staff about any exposure risk or request to see the asbestos management plan.

Be proactive: If you think asbestos may be present in your home, you can hire an inspector to assess any potential damage. If removal is required, they can also help recommend an asbestos abatement professional to safely remove and dispose of the toxin.

Inform yourself on the health risks: In some cases, it might be too late to prevent asbestos exposure. Being aware of any potential symptoms and having an open dialogue with your doctor can lead to a life-saving earlier diagnosis.

Spread the word: Helping to educate others on asbestos and its dangers could truly save a life. Prevention is essential when it comes to this toxin and the deadly diseases it can cause. Using your voice to educate others and help raise awareness could also help bring us closer to a ban! Join the conversation this week by tweeting to us or commenting on Facebook.

This National Poison Prevention Week ensures you take a proactive approach to protecting your family from these toxins. Exposure can happen at any time, and being more aware can help prevent potential poisonings.