Asbestos is an ongoing health issue in the U.S. Nearly 40,000 individuals die from asbestos-related diseases annually. It’s why you should know as much as you can about the material and its effects. Here are some facts about asbestos and its effect on your health.
What Is Asbestos?
Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral. It contains flexible fibers resistant to heat, corrosion, and electricity. It was previously used as a part of new construction projects because it was an effective insulator. Several asbestos companies in NY, including factories and other industries, exposed their workers to this product which has resulted in health problems for many. Some companies still exist with some elements of the mineral.
In the past, several materials, like cement and plastic, had asbestos added to make them stronger. Unfortunately, it also released fine dust into the air. When inhaled or ingested, asbestos fibers become permanently trapped in your body. Over time, asbestos has caused severe health issues.
The At-Risk Population
The at-risk population for asbestos exposure is men in their 60s. The reason is that mineral-related diseases have a long latency period. The people in this age group work in construction and similar industries where they inhaled or ingested asbestos fibers. These sectors include mining, manufacturing, automotive repair, and building renovation. Military personnel who served between the 1930s and 1970s are also at risk for asbestos-related diseases. Naval personnel are more at risk as asbestos was originally utilized in shipbuilding.
Other at-risk individuals and families are those who lived near asbestos mines or those with related minerals. For instance, its fibers are a part of talc, vermiculite, and chrysotile asbestos. Where most commercial deposits contain 6% of asbestos, other mines feature minerals with more than 50% of the compound.
Effects On Your Health
At a minimum, continued absorption of asbestos fibers causes lung inflammation and scarring. These could lead to related diseases like:
- Asbestosis — Due to lung tissue damage, symptoms include coughing, breathing difficulties, and chest pain.
- Pleural Effusions — Sometimes called water on the lung, it’s a build-up of excess fluid around the pleura, which are thin membranes that line the lungs and chest cavity interior.
- Pleural Plaques — The most common sign of asbestos exposure, the plaques are fibrous thickenings on the pleura.
- Pleuritis — Also known as pleurisy, it’s when the pleura becomes inflamed and causes sharp chest pains while breathing.
- COPD — Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is a series of illnesses that cause airflow blockage and breathing-related problems. If not treated, patients require constant oxygen flow.
Genetic damage is also caused by breathing or ingesting asbestos. As a result, patients could be susceptible to different cancer forms. The most common is mesothelioma. Studies reveal this form of cancer comes directly from long-term asbestos exposure. Malignant tumors form in the lung’s lining, heart, or stomach. If not detected, the symptoms could include shortness of breath and chest pain. Unfortunately, patients diagnosed with mesothelioma have a one year life expectancy.
Other cancers related to asbestos exposure include those in the lungs, ovaries, and throat. The treatment and life expectancy of these vary. If discovered early, there’s a chance to overcome these diseases.
What If Asbestos Is Detected?
There are still residential and commercial buildings that have asbestos. The determination occurs after building inspectors review a location after reports of illness. Caution is required to remove and replace the asbestos. If you’re a homeowner who decides to remove it on your own, consider the following to make it as safe as possible.
- Seal work areas to prevent dust from spreading through the house.
- Turn off the air conditioning and fans to prevent asbestos fibers from getting into the ventilation system.
- Never remove the asbestos without wearing a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) respirator.
- Wear disposable coveralls and gloves and properly throw them out when done.
- Spray exposed areas to keep asbestos materials wet and suppress dust.
- Clean workspaces with wet wipes or a HEPA-filtered vacuum.
- Don’t throw asbestos in the trash. Find the location of landfills that accept clearly labeled bags of the material.
What If I Was Exposed?
If you believe you were exposed to asbestos, reach out to your physician. They’ll test for the fibers and the resulting medical issues.
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