Asbestos Exposure: Health Hazard
Although today there are alternative products, for decades asbestos was widely used commercially worldwide. Asbestos is known to be a severe health hazard, yet production of asbestos-based products in the U.S. continues. While exact numbers are unknown, at least 25 million workers were exposed to asbestos prior to the mid-1970's.
An estimated 2 million employees currently working in construction trades and other industries are routinely exposed to dangerous levels of asbestos dust. Exposure is highest during housing renovations or building demolitions where asbestos particles are broken free, stirred in the air and unprotected employees unwittingly inhale them.
Employees are exposed to danger during manufacture, or removal
of asbestos products such as insulation, textiles and other building materials.
Since asbestos fibers will remain in a person's lungs once inhaled, the more exposure to fibrous asbestos dust increases chances for developing mesothelioma, or "asbestos disease."
The only known cause of this disease is exposure to asbestos materials, which for the most part, usually occurs in the workplace. Mesothelioma is a cancer that attacks either the pleura (lining in the lungs), the peritoneum (a membrane which lines the abdominal cavity), or the pericardium (a two-layered membrane surrounding the heart).
Mesothelioma is the result of breathing in, or ingesting loose fibers of asbestos. This causes tissue scarring and can eventually lead to cancer of the lungs, chest, or abdominal cavities. It can take many years to manifest symptoms or pain, however, once symptoms of mesothelioma are realized, the life span of the person affected can be shortened to as little as a few months. Sadly, the number of people diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma increases every year.
With knowledge of this potentially deadly disease and what causes it, taking advance precautions to avoid contact with asbestos is your primary defense against developing cancer. Families and workers alike can protect themselves by testing homes and work areas for asbestos contamination. Purchase an asbestos test kit for examination of suspect substances. If asbestos is found, do not remove it yourself. Notify proper officials, or have it removed safely by qualified professionals.