If you are thinking about carrying out any home improvements, especially in an older property, you may need to be aware that older properties may contain asbestos in certain areas, such as heating and boilers, sidings, ceilings and even floor tiles for instance. Asbestos can be a very dangerous material and great care needs to be taken in dealing with it. In some countries only licensed contractors can work with asbestos.
Asbestos is a naturally occurring, silicate-based mineral. Asbestos has been used in a variety of consumer goods and construction materials since the 1950s, including brake pads, insulation, fire retardant boards and ceiling tiles. It was an extremely useful product with useful fire retardant and insulation properties, unfortunately the fibers of which it is composed can become airborne if disturbed. Research shows that these asbestos fibers can cause serious lung diseases and deadly cancer over time. Since asbestos fibers become airborne when it breaks down or is disturbed, most people may not realize they have been exposed to asbestos products at any point in time. However, as asbestos fibers become airborne, it is possible for them to become inhaled by humans and cause health problems such as: mesothelioma and asbestosis for instance.
Asbestos fibers become airborne when asbestos materials are broken down or friable. These fibers are microscopic, so they are inhaled easily. If you are exposed to asbestos products, your risk of developing a lung disease caused by these tiny fibers is high. You could become exposed to asbestos by working with loose, friable or broken down asbestos or waste from a demolition site where asbestos was dumped or even by working in a building where asbestos containing material (ACM) is being removed, though that is a lesser risk. The more you are exposed to asbestos, the higher your risk would be of developing a lung disease caused by these small fibers.
Mesothelioma is the most dangerous type of lung disease caused by asbestos fibers. One type of this disease is pleural mesothelioma, which accounts for approximately 90 percent of all mesothelioma cases. In addition, you may develop a form of this disease called peritoneal mesothelioma. It is not exactly known how this type of mesothelioma develops, it may be due to ingesting (swallowing) asbestos fibers. This form of mesothelioma can cause abdominal pains, chest pains, persistent coughing, shortness of breath, and swelling of the abdomen. You may also develop pleural mesothelioma if you were exposed to larger amounts of asbestos fibers.
Another type of health hazard associated with asbestos fibers is asbestosis. Asbestosis causes the development of scar tissue in the lungs. This scar tissue can block the airways of the lungs and cause breathing difficulties. People with asbestosis are at a high risk for developing cancer of the lungs.
When asbestos fibers become trapped in the lining of the lungs, they can grow into pockets and cavities that can cause inflammation of the lining. It is possible for the asbestos fibers to break through the lungs and travel to other areas of the body. As a result, you can experience pain and inflammation in other parts of your body such as the abdomen, heart, and other organs.
Common exposure sources of asbestos include floor tiles that contain asbestos. Many people are unaware that asbestos is still present in many building materials including ceiling tiles, floor tiles, plumbing fixtures, insulation, and building accessories such as insulation board. Unfortunately, not all homes and business owners are aware of this fact and end up exposing their employees, customers, and the community to asbestos fibers when they work with these building materials. The most dangerous type of asbestos used in heating and cooling is chrysotile.
It is important to note that asbestos fibers are very fine and they do not easily become airborne unless disturbed. In many cases, it is better to encapsulate any asbestos found during construction work so that it remains in place and no fibers are dislodged. This is not possible with demolition work, however. The only way for you to become exposed to asbestos is when you come in contact with materials containing asbestos. When you breathe in these fibers after coming into contact with the material, the particles will lodge in the lung tissue and cause microscopic damage in the lung tissues. As a result of this, the body will attempt to remove these particles by producing white blood cells called monocytes and macrophages. These cells will engulf the asbestos fibers in your lungs and over time, the body will eliminate the monocytes and macrophages.
This condition called Asbestos induced lung disease (AIL), may gradually progress to cancer. Ailments caused by being exposed to asbestos fibers include asbestosis, pleural plaques, and diffuse pleural thickening. It has been shown that these types of diseases are more common among asbestos exposed workers than those who are not exposed. It is always best to protect yourself from any potential threat.
Be sure to protect yourself from both Asbestos and other dangerous materials when carrying out any home improvements by wearing your asbestos protective clothing, mask and gloves when you are at work in an area that has been assessed as containing asbestos.
Chris has worked as a consultant in various construction companies and has come across cases of people working with asbestos unknowingly. This can be dangerous and can also be illegal. Make sure to stay safe when working with asbestos if you are carrying out decor jobs at home, especially on older homes.