Asbestos is a mineral fiber found naturally in soil and rock. Because of its properties of being resistant to fire and an insulator against heat, it was once widely used industrially in shipbuilding, for automotive parts and in the construction of private homes, offices and schools. Legislation to restrict asbestos use has been in effect for decades, but many older buildings still have significant amounts of asbestos-containing material. Because of the prevalence of such structures, it is important to be aware of the dangers of exposure to asbestos.
Where Asbestos Is Found
New homes do not contain significant amounts of asbestos material. However, if your home was built between 1930 and 1950, it may be insulated with asbestos. Until 1977, asbestos was used in homes in joint patching compounds on walls and ceilings and in textured paints. Other areas in older homes where asbestos is found include roof and siding shingles, insulation blankets on furnace ducts and steam pipes, floor tiles and adhesives for attaching floor tiles, sheet insulation on walls and floors around stoves and furnaces, stove-top padding, and artificial ashes in fireplaces. Asbestos is also found in automotive parts such as brake pads, clutch pads and gaskets.
Exposure to Asbestos
Asbestos is harmful when you inhale or swallow its dust and fibers, so if the material containing asbestos in your home is in good condition, the best thing you can do is leave it alone. However, when asbestos becomes disturbed or damaged due to deterioration, maintenance work or renovation, it poses significant health risks. If you suspect that the safety of your home has been compromised due to disturbance of asbestos-containing material, you should not attempt to deal with it yourself. Whether the damage is minor or major, you should call asbestos professionals who can handle it with proper safety precautions.
Health Dangers From Asbestos Exposure
When you inhale asbestos dust and fibers, they lodge in your lungs and other organs. Though you may not show symptoms for decades, the irritation eventually will lead to severe health problems. Asbestosis is a non-cancerous lung disease that scars your lungs and makes it difficult to breathe. Lung cancer is a potentially deadly form of cancer, in which tumors invade your lungs and block air passages. Mesothelioma is a rare but devastating form of cancer that is brought on almost exclusively by exposure to asbestos. This aggressive cancer is often not properly diagnosed until it is far advanced and difficult to treat.
Exposure to asbestos is an insidious danger because often the subsequent diseases take so long to develop. Some people exposed to asbestos many years ago are only now beginning to manifest symptoms. Besides owners of homes and other structures built with asbestos materials, others who may have had past exposure to asbestos include those who worked in asbestos-related industries and their families, Navy personnel who worked in shipbuilding or aboard ships containing an abundance of asbestos materials, and people who have traveled abroad in countries where asbestos use is not curtailed by legislation.
If you have been exposed to asbestos in the past and suffer from a disease brought on by asbestos exposure, you should seek guidance for seeking a legal claim. Many people with asbestos-related diseases have received compensation through legal action.