Asbestos, a group of naturally occurring minerals with silicate properties, was once considered a remarkable material due to its excellent ability to resist fire and insulate. These qualities made it desirable for various industrial and construction purposes. It was incorporated into a wide range of building materials, including tiles and household appliances like ovens and hairdryers.
However, this material has a darker side: it can pose significant health hazards when its fibers are inhaled or touch the skin. Notably, in Ohio, between 1999 and 2017, over 12,000 people died from asbestos-related diseases, highlighting the severity of its impact on public health.
In this article, we will explore the health risks associated with asbestos exposure and discuss practical ways to reduce or prevent contact with this harmful substance.
*Guest post. Post may contain affiliate links. Full disclosure can be viewed here.
Health Risks Associated with Asbestos Exposure
When you breathe in or swallow asbestos fibers, they can get stuck in your lungs and digestive system, which can cause serious health problems over time. These trapped fibers can lead to inflammation and scarring, severely affecting your ability to breathe properly. One common illness caused by asbestos exposure is asbestosis, which is a chronic lung condition that results in difficulty breathing, coughing, and potentially more severe respiratory problems.
Perhaps the most concerning disease associated with asbestos is mesothelioma, an uncommon but aggressive cancer that mainly affects the lining of the lungs, abdomen, or heart. It can take decades for these diseases to show symptoms, making early detection challenging.
Recognizing the severe health implications and the challenging legal landscape surrounding asbestos-related diseases, many affected individuals and families seek legal guidance. Specifically, in regions with a history of industrial or construction-related asbestos use, like Ohio, expert legal counsel is essential. Running a quick Google search for mesothelioma attorneys Ohio will yield suitable options for legal guidance if you’re in the area and require it.
Ways to Prevent Asbestos Exposure
Avoid DIY Asbestos Removal
The allure of do-it-yourself home projects is strong, especially with the prevalence of online tutorials. However, when it comes to asbestos, DIY removal is a dangerous proposition. The removal process can release tiny asbestos fibers into the air. Without the proper equipment and precautions, these fibers can easily be inhaled, leading to potential health issues down the line.
Certified professionals are trained to handle asbestos removal in the safest manner possible. They use specialized tools, take appropriate precautions, and ensure the complete removal of the hazardous material without risking contamination.
Use Appropriate Safety Gear
For individuals working in environments where asbestos exposure is a risk, personal protection is paramount. Standard dust masks are insufficient for filtering out asbestos fibers. Instead, respirators that are specifically designed to filter out asbestos and that fit snugly to the face are required. It’s essential to ensure a tight seal since any gaps can allow the inhalation of fibers.
Additionally, disposable clothing, including overalls, gloves, and shoe covers, should be worn to prevent the fibers from latching onto regular attire, which could pose a risk to others outside the work environment. After exposure, these disposable items should be carefully removed and disposed of to prevent further contamination.
Maintain Good Hygiene
Hygiene practices can significantly reduce the risk of asbestos exposure. When working with or around asbestos, microscopic fibers can settle on your skin, hair, clothing, and personal items, leading to accidental ingestion or further inhalation.
To maintain good hygiene:
- Avoid eating, drinking, or smoking in asbestos-contaminated areas.
- Wash your hands and face thoroughly with soap and water after leaving an area where asbestos might be present.
- Use designated clean areas or break rooms, located away from work areas, for eating and drinking.
- Shower and change into clean clothes before leaving the workplace, ensuring that any asbestos fibers aren’t taken home with you.
- Always store work clothes separately from personal attire, and if possible, wash them separately.
Ensure Proper Ventilation
Proper ventilation is paramount when dealing with areas containing asbestos. It’s not just about opening a window or turning on a fan but ensuring a continuous flow of fresh air that can dilute and carry away any asbestos fibers released into the environment.
When asbestos fibers are disturbed, they can become airborne. Without adequate ventilation, these fibers can become concentrated in an enclosed space, significantly increasing the risk of inhalation. If you’re working in an environment where asbestos is present, make sure to:
- Open windows and doors to create cross-ventilation.
- Use exhaust fans or external ventilation systems to remove the contaminated air and replace it with fresh air.
- Regularly check and maintain ventilation systems to ensure they’re effectively removing airborne contaminants.
Limiting Time in Exposed Areas
Minimizing exposure is one of the primary defenses against the dangers of asbestos. One effective strategy is to limit the duration spent in asbestos-prone areas. By carefully planning tasks ahead of time, individuals can ensure that they have all the necessary tools and information on hand, reducing the need for prolonged periods in contaminated zones.
If a task necessitates extended exposure, consider implementing a rotation system for workers. This approach not only divides the exposure time among several individuals but also allows the body a chance to clear out any potentially inhaled fibers during rest periods.
Additionally, designating specific areas of a workspace as “safe zones” free from asbestos materials can provide a secure space for breaks and waiting periods.
Maintain Work Area Hygiene
Ensuring cleanliness in an area where asbestos work has taken place is of utmost importance. Asbestos fibers, when disturbed, are minuscule enough to remain suspended in the air for hours, making them easy to inhale. By thoroughly cleaning the work area after the job, one significantly reduces the risk of these harmful fibers spreading. It’s vital to use wet rags or mops as they effectively capture and contain these fibers, minimizing their release back into the environment.
On the contrary, methods such as dry sweeping or the use of regular vacuums can inadvertently disperse these fibers further. HEPA-filtered vacuums, specially designed to capture tiny particles like asbestos, are recommended for optimal cleaning, ensuring that any lingering threads are effectively removed.
Disposing of asbestos is not as straightforward as getting rid of regular waste. Due to its hazardous nature, there are stringent guidelines on how asbestos should be handled post-removal to protect both human health and the environment.
Firstly, asbestos waste should always be kept wet, which minimizes the chance of fibers becoming airborne. Then, it should be placed in sturdy, leak-tight containers or double-bagged using thick plastic bags. Each container or bag should be sealed securely and labeled appropriately, indicating that it contains asbestos waste. This helps ensure that anyone coming into contact with it is aware of its contents and can take necessary precautions.
Furthermore, asbestos waste needs to be disposed of at designated disposal sites that are equipped and licensed to handle such materials.
Although the use of asbestos has significantly decreased over the years, it still lurks in many places, posing health risks. By being vigilant, educated, and proactive, we can minimize the threats posed by this hazardous material and protect our health and the health of those around us.