Asbestos and your health

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Asbestos and your health

  

From the US EPA


What is asbestos?

Asbestos is the name given to a number of naturally occurring fibrous   minerals with high tensile strength, the ability to be woven, and   resistance to heat and most chemicals. Because of these properties,   asbestos fibers have been used in a wide range of manufactured goods,   including roofing shingles, ceiling and floor tiles, paper and cement   products, textiles, coatings, and friction products such as automobile   clutch, brake and transmission parts. The  Toxic Substances Control Act  defines asbestos as the asbestiform  varieties of: chrysotile  (serpentine); crocidolite (riebeckite); amosite   (cummingtonite/grunerite); anthophyllite; tremolite; and actinolite.


Asbestos health effects

Exposure to asbestos increases your risk of developing lung disease.   That risk is made worse by smoking. In general, the greater the  exposure  to asbestos, the greater the chance of developing harmful  health  effects. Disease symptoms may take several years to develop  following  exposure. If you are concerned about possible exposure,  consult a  physician who specializes in lung  diseases (pulmonologist).

Exposure to airborne friable asbestos may result in a potential   health risk because persons breathing the air may breathe in asbestos   fibers. Continued exposure can increase the amount of fibers that remain   in the lung. Fibers embedded in lung tissue over time may cause  serious  lung diseases including asbestosis, lung cancer, or  mesothelioma.  Smoking increases the risk of developing illness from  asbestos exposure.

Three of the major health effects associated with asbestos exposure include:

  • Asbestosis -- Asbestosis is a serious,  progressive,  long-term non-cancer disease of the lungs. It is caused by  inhaling  asbestos fibers that irritate lung tissues and cause the  tissues to  scar. The scarring makes  it hard for oxygen to get into the blood.  Symptoms of asbestosis include  shortness of breath and a dry, crackling  sound in the lungs while  inhaling. There is no effective treatment for  asbestosis.
     
  • Lung Cancer -- Lung cancer causes the largest   number of deaths related to asbestos exposure. People who work in the   mining, milling, manufacturing of asbestos, and those who use asbestos   and its products are more likely to develop lung cancer than the general   population. The most common symptoms of lung cancer are coughing and a   change in breathing. Other symptoms include shortness of breath,   persistent chest pains, hoarseness, and anemia.
     
  • Mesothelioma  -- Mesothelioma is a rare form of   cancer that is found in the thin lining (membrane) of the lung, chest,   abdomen, and heart and almost all cases are linked to exposure to   asbestos. This disease may not show up until many years after asbestos   exposure. This is why great efforts are being made to prevent school   children from being exposed
     

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Where can asbestos be found?

Asbestos fibers are incredibly strong and have properties that make   them resistant to heat. Many products are in use today that contain   asbestos. Most of these are materials used in heat and acoustic   insulation, fire proofing, and roofing and flooring. In 1989, EPA   identified the following asbestos product categories. Many of these   materials may still be in use.

  asbestos-cement corrugated sheet asbestos-cement flat sheet asbestos-cement pipe asbestos-cement shingle   roof coatings flooring felt pipeline wrap roofing felt   asbestos clothing non-roof coatings vinyl/asbestos floor tile automatic transmission components   clutch facings disc brake pads drum brake linings brake blocks   commercial and industrial asbestos friction products sheet and beater-add gaskets (except specialty industrial) commercial, corrugated and specialty paper millboard   rollboard          


What if I have asbestos in my home?

The best thing to do is to leave asbestos-containing material that is   in good condition alone. If unsure whether or not the material  contains  asbestos, you may consider hiring a professional asbestos  inspector to  sample and test the  material for you. Before you have  your house  remodeled, you should find out whether asbestos-containing  materials are  present. If asbestos-containing material is becoming  damaged (i.e.,  unraveling, frayed, breaking apart) you should  immediately isolate the  area (keep pets and children away from the  area) and refrain from  disturbing the material (either by touching it  or walking on it). You  should then immediately contact an asbestos  professional for  consultation. It is best to receive an assessment from  one firm and any  needed abatement from another firm to avoid any  conflict of interest. In  such a scenario as described above,  asbestos-containing material does  not necessarily need to be removed,  but may rather be repaired by an  asbestos professional via  encapsulation or enclosure. Removal is often  unnecessary.
 

Where can I find an accredited laboratory to test for asbestos?

The National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) maintains a listing of accredited asbestos laboratories under the National   Voluntary Laboratory Accreditation Program (NVLAP). 

You may call NIST at (301) 975-4016.


For more information visit:
http://www.epa.gov/asbestos/pubs/help.html