Asbestos is the generic name for a group of minerals that can be separated into tiny fibers. They were widely used for insulation and fireproofing. Certain kinds of asbestos such as white (chrysotile), brown (amosite), and blue (crocidolite) are used widely. They are durable, and heat resistant.
The homes with water heating systems, some schools and some buildings mostly make use of asbestos insulation. There are opinions from all over the world that occupants of such buildings are at a little risk.
1. When inhaled, the small fibers get into the lungs and stay there.
2. Lung cancer is a common hazard. It takes 10- 15 years for its development.
3. Mesothelioma (tumor in the lining of the lung or abdominal cavity). 20- 45 years is the time period of this type.
4. Asbestosis (painful scarring of the lungs)
5. Severity of illness depends upon the duration and amount inhaled.
6. People exposed to asbestos, who smoke, increases the risk of lung cancer.
7. The workers transfer the risk to the family members also, by carrying the fibers through clothing and hair.
Danger at home:
1. In older homes, asbestos was used to build certain parts. These pose a small degree of threat.
2. If the material deteriorates, fibers may be released into the air.
3. Undamaged, unused asbestos is better to be discarded, than disturbed for further use, to prevent release of fibers.
4. The asbestos which is wet, is also better to be discarded with care.
5. Insulation for heating systems and pipes, plaster- like coating on boilers, etc. may contain asbestos.
6. Compounds used for patch work.
7. Textured paints and insulation on walls and ceilings.
8. Vinyl sheet flooring and tiles. These when disturbed unprofessionally, may cause high levels of asbestos dust.
9. The underlying adhesives of these floor tiles may also contain asbestos.
10. Electrical – wire insulation contains asbestos
11. Any suspected asbestos should never be touched without a trained professional.
12. Worn out, water- damaged portions also should be removed with care.
People commonly at risk:
Casual exposure to asbestos may not pose such a great threat. But exposure by any means should be taken seriously. All of us are living in a situation, where we have to come across materials with asbestos.
All of us inhale small amounts of asbestos fibers throughout our lives, but it does not cause serious health problems.
But those who are really at risk are; miners, construction people, demolition men, and building and maintenance workers. But the highest risk is for those who are directly exposed to the mineral.
Cleaning up of microscopic asbestos fibers requires a high- efficiency particulate aerosol respirator, gloves, protective clothing, and a special vacuum.
People are becoming more and more concerned about the health risks, and are trying to avoid asbestos from everyday lives. Despite the scares of recent years, there has never been a reported case of illness caused solely by exposure to asbestos in the home.
When compared to deaths caused other means like, vehicle accidents, smoking, lightning, etc., deaths by asbestos exposure is only 1 in 100,000.