Asbestos? Isn’t that the stuff that people stopped using ages ago — back in the 1970s? Is there really any reason to worry about asbestos exposure these days?
Absolutely. In fact, doctors say that most of the cases of mesothelioma — a type of lung and abdominal cancer — that they see today are the result of exposure to the substance. Asbestos is a natural product that was used in a variety of industrial and military building materials and heralded for its fire retardant properties. Unfortunately, products made with asbestos shed tiny fibers that get into the air when they’re disturbed. Those fibers can be easily inhaled, and they’re very destructive to the human body.
The damage from asbestos exposure can take years, even decades, to emerge. The average mesothelioma patient was probably exposed to the fibers about forty years before developing the disease. Aside from mesothelioma, people can develop asbestosis, a chronic lung disorder that leaves lung tissue scarred and creates difficulty breathing.
However, doctors say that it’s a misconception to think that people only have to worry about asbestos exposure from decades past. Construction workers who do renovations and homeowners doing their own household improvements often find asbestos products lurking under tiles, behind walls and around pipes.
Another huge misconception is that it takes extensive asbestos exposure before there’s any real danger. In fact, there’s no such thing as a “safe” amount of exposure to asbestos. That means that even brief exposure during renovations can endanger construction workers and homeowners.
Finally, it’s a mistake to think that asbestos is no longer in use. People like mechanics and heating equipment technicians need to be aware of the danger — asbestos is still legally used for vehicle brakes and on insulating jackets around boilers and other systems.
Employers are supposed to give their employees adequate training about the dangers of asbestos exposure. They are also supposed to provide necessary protective gear and adhere to governmental safety guidelines about its removal. Unfortunately, that doesn’t always happen, leaving workers exposed to asbestos and all its unnecessary dangers.
If you work in an industry where you could be exposed to asbestos fibers, make sure that you’re aware of the real facts — and let your co-workers know the dangers as well!