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A big THANK YOU to Brian for this informative article on Asbestos.
We, as a whole, fear what we do not understand. How many times have we been told not to use a particular item because it is hazardous to us and the environment only to discover that we based that decision on a misconception? It does happen; however, if we educate ourselves to the things around us we can make knowledgeable decisions and not rely on what others are telling us.
Asbestos is in this category. I know many of you have seen all the commercials on television about the lawsuits and how asbestos can be fatal. You may even know someone who has been exposed to Asbestos at some point in time. Actually, I can guarantee that you have; you just may not know it. Asbestos is everywhere. That’s right, Asbestos is everywhere. With that said, what is Asbestos? Where does it come from? Why is it bad for us? These are important questions to ask and answer.
What is Asbestos?
Asbestos is a natural silicate mineral that comes from the earth. Asbestos, when translated from its Greek origin, means miracle mineral. The Greek and Roman Empire discovered and used Asbestos for generations before they noted the health affects it had on the slaves. Asbestos was named the “miracle mineral” because it will not burn or freeze and has a tensile strength stronger then steel. The Greeks and Romans used Asbestos for everything such as: clothes, tablecloths, building materials, toys, and the cistern that housed and delivered their drinking water. There are seven types of Asbestos with two being predominately found in building materials and one being the most hazardous.
Chrysotile is a white fluffy mineral that is serpentine in make up. This form of Asbestos was found in a vast majority of building materials.
Amosite is brown Asbestos that was predominantly used as insulation of water boilers and steam lines. This form of Asbestos can be found at shipyards and steam plants.
Crocidolite is blue Asbestos and although it is rare to find in use this Asbestos is the most hazardous to humans due to its formula. The blue color comes from that amount of iron within the Asbestos.
Why is Asbestos bad for us?
Asbestos is only a hazard when it is airborne and can be inhaled.
As seen in this picture of Chrysotile there are many strands hanging off this piece of limestone. Each of those strands is made up of millions of asbestos fibers that look like little spears. What we breathe in are those tiny little fibers that pass through our lungs to the point where our cells transfer the oxygen to our blood. Once there these fibers literally spear the cells at which time our body begins to fight it much like we fight a virus. This is where the trouble begins because the fibers are so small that our body cannot expel them so our body makes mucus to bind the bad cells to the wall of our lungs. This is how Asbestosis, lung cancer, and Mesothelioma begin. The more Asbestos fibers we inhale the more mucus and scar tissue are made. After a length of time of exposure our lungs will simply fail because the scar tissue will not allow it to expand and contract properly or we can literally drown in our own mucus.
How much exposure to Asbestos is too much?
This is a difficult question to answer because doctors and scientist alike cannot determine the amount of exposure before symptoms begin. We are all different and respond differently to Asbestos. There have been reports that some people develop lung cancer from a very limited amount of exposure and other people have worked around or with Asbestos for years and never developed symptoms. However, what is known is that a smoker who is exposed to Asbestos is 40 times more likely to get Asbestosis, Mesothelioma, or lung cancer as compared to a non-smoker. The fact that this question cannot be answered is one reason why Asbestos was banned in the United States and why Asbestos has more laws and regulations then any other hazardous material.
How do I identify Asbestos and keep my family safe?
From a legal standpoint Asbestos can only be identified through a sample analyzed by a certified laboratory. If you suspect that you have Asbestos in your home you can have it sampled. If you have Asbestos around you or in your home you can have it removed; however, this can be expensive. There are other ways to protect you from Asbestos exposure. You can apply a covering on it or cover it with an adhesive. For example, if you have Asbestos in your linoleum you can simply place another sheet of linoleum over it or cover it with another flooring material. If you have Asbestos exposed in your basement you could build a case around it or spray it with adhesive. The point is to NOT disturb it. If you think you will disturb it while working around it then spray it down with water first. The water will prevent it from becoming airborne. Do not cut, sand, break or pulverize Asbestos as this will release fibers into the air. Once the Asbestos it protected simply leave it alone. Again, you so not want to disturb it.
Is Asbestos really that bad? In my opinion we should not fear Asbestos. However, it demands respect and so we should respect it. Remember, Asbestos is harmful when it is airborne and that happens when it is disturbed. Are these terrible diseases we can get from Asbestos? Absolutely, my heart goes out to those who contracted any of the diseases caused by Asbestos exposure and their families. Be mindful of your surroundings and be safe.
I hope this article shed some light on Asbestos and you found it informative. Knowledge is power and perhaps this knowledge will help you keep your friends and family safe from the danger of Asbestos.
I'd like to, once again, thank Brian for sharing his knowledge with us.
As always ... I'd love to hear from you.