This is a warning: Exposure to asbestos can increase the risk of cancer. If you find asbestos at home, get advice from Erie Environmental and offer professional asbestos testing.
Health problems caused by asbestos
When the asbestos inside the product is disturbed (e.g. demolition of buildings), tiny fibers are released into the environment. The fibers are so tiny that they cannot be seen with the naked eye. You can breathe them in easily, and if you do, they can be trapped in the lungs and stay there for many years. Imagine that you are regularly exposed to the tiny fibers. What can happen? The particles accumulate in your lungs and cause abnormal cells and other diseases over a period of time.
According to evidence-based research from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), asbestos fibers can cause mesothelioma (breast cancer), ovarian cancer, larynx cancer and of course lung cancer. Non-cancerous diseases caused by asbestos are asbestosis, pleural plaques, pleural thickening, atelectasis, benign effusions and pleurisy.
Here are the signs and symptoms of asbestos exposure:
- Accumulation of fluid around the lungs
- Dry cough
- Chest tightness and pain
- Thickening and plaque around the pleural
- Another crack when breathing
You may also experience abdominal swelling, abdominal pain, hoarse voice, clubbing fingers, weight loss, IBS, and difficulty swallowing.
What do the EPA, CPSC and IARC have to say?
Many people are not aware of the health risk posed by asbestos. Although asbestos has been mined and used commercially to reinforce cement and plastics in construction since the late 19th century, particularly during World War II, it has been approved by the United States Consumer Product and Safety Commission (CPSC). Officially banned because the asbestos fibers can easily be released into the air and cause health problems. The ban was officially passed in 1970. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) then banned the use of asbestos for construction, adhesives, plastics, garden products, talc colored pencils, and many other products.
However, in 2000, after a series of tests, the CPSC and EPA concluded that minimal exposure to asbestos-based vermiculite in children posed little health risk. However, prolonged or occasional contact with such substances during gardening and / or building construction can increase the risk of lung diseases, including cancer.
The organizations also recommend keeping the product moist with asbestos vermiculite each time and ventilating the area well. Even if the area is too dusty, it is advisable to throw away the clothing worn while using asbestos. Asbestos consumption has decreased significantly since old buildings and houses that were built before the 1980s may still contain a good proportion of asbestos.
What should you do if you are exposed to asbestos?
If you have had a high exposure to asbestos in the past and if you have any of the above signs, you need to tell your doctor and ask them to recommend testing and screening for asbestos-related diseases.
These tests include a blood test, chest X-ray, CT scan, and lung function test. If you have been exposed to asbestos for years, you must have the screening done every 3 – 5 years, depending on the doctor's recommendation.
Where to find asbestos
You also need to have your house or building tested for asbestos and have it removed by a certified asbestos removal company like Erie Environmental. Common places where you can find asbestos in your home are cement, drywall, loft, vinyl floor tiles (before 1950), popcorn ceilings, insulation around pipes, roof shingles, and textured paints. If you think your home may be a victim of asbestos, go to the nearest hospital straight away.