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Are you protected from asbestos exposure at work?

Once commonly used in building construction as a fire-retardant, we now know the hazards it presents and no longer use the material. However, it is still found in many older buildings.

The mere presence of asbestos is not a high-risk factor for contracting cancer, as asbestos presents few problems until it is dislocated. This releases the deadly fibers into the atmosphere, causing anyone in the vicinity to inhale the carcinogen.

Inhalation of asbestos is known to cause:

-- Lung cancer

-- Mesothelioma

-- Asbestosis

-- Pleural plaque

Those at highest risk of asbestos exposure are maintenance workers and those construction workers whose jobs require them to disturb the material. Drilling into walls or removing ceilings is especially dangerous.

Because of the danger associated with asbestos removal, only professionals who have been specially trained should attempt to remove the material. Asbestos removal contractors who are licensed are the only ones who should ever remove lagging or sprayed asbestos.

All construction workers should be aware of what asbestos looks like so they may avoid it. Some older insulation types may also contain asbestos.

Dust masks are insufficient when working around asbestos. Special masks rated for asbestos work must be worn correctly. Workers should keep the mask on at all times and never smoke, drink or eat in their work area.

Hand tools disturb the asbestos far less than power tools and introduce less dust in the air. If the area is kept damp, the dust settles faster. Cleaning up as you work instead of waiting until the job is done is recommended.

If you suspect an asbestos exposure has left you vulnerable to carcinogens, you may be able to file for Workers' Compensation benefits.

Source:, "5 Tips to Protect Yourself from Asbestos in the Workplace," Shan, accessed July 10, 2015

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