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Have your children been affected by asbestos?

As a parent, you probably go out of your way to protect your children from toxins. You might opt for organic produce to minimize exposure to pesticides. Perhaps you purchase dye-free, preservative-free food to stay on the safe side. Despite your best efforts, however, toxins such as asbestos could still be lurking where you least expect them.

Asbestos exposure is linked to long-term health problems – including cancer. Knowing where asbestos occurs is thus critical to reducing exposure.

How much is too much?

A known carcinogen, asbestos is hazardous in any amount. High levels of long-term exposure are linked to a greater risk of health problems. Yet, because other factors are at play – genetics, health history and cumulative exposure to carcinogens, for example – there's no clear threshold. Put simply, there's no way to know, decades later, at what point the exposure triggered the onset of cancer.

That's why it's important to eliminate as many possible sources of exposure – especially when it comes to your children, who have so much of their lives still ahead of them.

Watch out for these possible sources

Despite recent bans and regulatory controls on asbestos use, the toxin is still found in many buildings and everyday items. Possible sources include:

  • Exposure at home. Asbestos was once widespread in construction materials. Older homes may harbor it in flooring, insulation, shingles, siding and more. Older appliances and auto parts may also have it. If you live in a home built before 1989 and suspect it may contain asbestos, have it tested, especially if you're considering repairs or renovation (which could stir up the fibers).
  • Exposure at school (or elsewhere). Just as asbestos was prevalent in residential construction, it was commonly found in commercial buildings, too. Schools, churches, in-home daycares – any older buildings – might be fraught with it. Once disturbed, the fibers are easily inhaled, potentially causing permanent damage to the lungs.
  • Second-hand exposure. If you know someone who works with asbestos, they may accidentally bring it home on their clothing or shoes. Strict workplace regulations try to limit this type of exposure. However, they aren't foolproof, and sloppiness can result in repeated exposure.
  • Household items. You may be surprised to learn that many commonplace products are potential sources for asbestos exposure. We recently posted an article about asbestos in crayons. Chalk, modeling clay and talc-based baby powder are also culprits.

Carcinogens are all around us, and you can't shield your children from them entirely. Still, awareness is key to reducing their exposure – especially with a substance as harmful as asbestos.

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