Asbestos is a widely used insulating material in the early 1900s. If your home was built before the 1980s, there is a huge chance that there is still asbestos in your house. Asbestos can be found in different areas of your home. It can be hiding behind the walls, cement, floor tiles, and pipes. Asbestos is relatively harmless when undisturbed. However, if you plan on doing some home renovation, you need to get rid of it instantly as it can cause a lot of health problems.
What Is Asbestos?
Asbestos is a naturally occurring material that is composed of a group of minerals. These minerals are in the form of bundles of fibers in soil and rocks. Asbestos is mainly made of silicon and oxygen but also contains other elements.
Asbestos fibers are useful because of their properties. Aside from their strength, it is also resistant to heat and many chemicals. It also does not conduct electricity. This is the reason why people used asbestos as an insulating material in the early times.
At the start of the industrial revolution, the material was widely used to insulate factories. The harmful effects of asbestos were then recognized in the second part of the 20th century as the cases of cancer begin to rise for factory workers who were exposed to asbestos. Measures were taken to reduce the instances and prevent more cases. Many countries started to establish exposure standards, and some even banned the use of asbestos.
How Are People Exposed?
You can be exposed to asbestos in different ways:
- Inhalation – Most asbestos exposures come from inhalation of asbestos fibers that are present in the air. Many of the cancer cases involving asbestos were workers engaged in mining and processing asbestos. Today, you can be exposed to asbestos fibers when you do a renovation or break down walls in your home. Once you disturb the asbestos present in your house, the fibers disperse in the air.
- Ingestion – Asbestos can be ingested through contaminated foods or liquids. And unfortunately, it can also be found in water pipes. When the asbestos in water pipes are disturbed, and there are leaks on them, it can contaminate the water going inside your home. You might not notice it instantly but you may be ingesting asbestos already.
How Does Asbestos Cause Cancer?
Experts have conducted studies and lab experiments which prove that asbestos increases the risk for some types of cancer. This is because when the asbestos fibers that are present in the air are inhaled, they stick to the different parts of the respiratory system. The fibers will then tend to stick to the mucus in the throat, windpipe, or the tubes of the lungs.
It is dangerous when the fibers reach the ends of the small airways in the lungs. Because the fibers are small and thin, they can easily penetrate these tiny passageways and make way to the exterior lining of the lungs until it reaches the chest wall. These fibers irritate the cells in the lungs and chest wall and when untreated, the fibers can cause lung cancer or mesothelioma. It is still isn’t clear what causes the occurrence of genetic mutations that lead to the disease. Researchers only identified that asbestos is a common factor in patients who have developed cancer.
Mesothelioma is a rare type of cancer that affects the linings of the tissues in the chest and abdomen. It is also an aggressive and deadly type of cancer. Although treatments are available, many people with the disease are not cured because it is already too late for medical intervention.
It was revealed in many studies that all forms of asbestos have been linked to the development of the disease. Most of the cases of people with cancer result from long-term exposure to asbestos. Symptoms and signs of mesotheliomas take a long time to develop. In fact, it was said that the time between first exposure to the diagnosis is usually about 30 years.
Long term exposure of asbestos can also cause other illnesses like lung cancer, problems in the immune system, and other respiratory problems like asbestosis and pleural disease. Although there is no clear evidence that short or one-time exposure has harmful effects, it is still critical to be cautious around the material.
If you have older homes or you live in older buildings, there is a considerable chance that asbestos was used behind the walls. In many cases, it is more dangerous to disturb asbestos inside the house than to leave it as it is. Breaking the asbestos can spread the fibers in the air, and without proper ventilation and protective gear, you can inhale the toxic material. If you want asbestos removed in your home to make your home safe, always seek help from professional asbestos removal companies. These services have the right protective gear to handle the situation and are also aware of the proper process to remove asbestos in your home.
Article Submitted By Community Writer