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Asbestos And The Environmental Effects

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Hazardous materials can be silent killers, almost every household or workplace contains various harmful substances therefore it is important to have the basic knowledge of these contaminants, where to find them, and what to do if exposed. Asbestos is a natural occurring mineral that is used in a number of different materials. Asbestos is not a concern if left undisturbed; however renovation, reconstruction or demolition can disturb these materials and release asbestos fibers into the air. Asbestos fibers can be inhaled and become trapped in lung tissue which increases the risk for several serious diseases. Asbestos is a well recognized health hazard and is highly regulated.

A natural mineral asbestos has been mined and used commercially in this country since 1880. It became a popular product due to its qualities and low cost. Asbestos is non-combustible, resistant to corrosion, an extremely high strength material, with a low electrical conductivity and its fibers are resistant to heat, fire and chemicals and are stable in the environment. The fibers do not evaporate in the air or dissolve in water and do not break down over time, it is the best insulator that man has. Its qualities resulted in approximately thirty-six hundred different commercial products containing asbestos. Many industries have used asbestos for example; the construction industry has used it for insulation, roofing, fireproofing, ceiling and floor tile, paints, coatings, adhesives and to strengthen cement and many plastics. The automotive industry uses it in brake shoes, clutch pads and many gaskets. In addition asbestos has been found in vermiculite-containing garden products and talc crayons. Based on many health studies it is recognized that asbestos can endanger human health, inhalation of asbestos fibers can get trapped into the lungs and can remain there for a long time.

An uncontrolled disturbance of any asbestos containing material in any concentration may be dangerous to your health. All people are exposed to small amounts of asbestos in their daily lives and do not develop any health problems. If disturbed however asbestos material may release asbestos fibers which can be inhaled into the lungs. The fibers can accumulate and remain in the lungs for a long time causing scarring and inflammation which affects breathing and can lead to serious health problems. The most dangerous asbestos fibers are too small to be seen. As asbestos fibers get smaller and lighter the more easily they can become airborne and human retaliatory exposure can result. Asbestos has been classified by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as a human carcinogen, which is a substance that causes cancer. Studies have shown that exposure to asbestos may increase the risk of lung cancer, mesothelioma and asbestosis. Mesothelioma is the most common form of cancer associated with asbestos exposure, although it is rare the cancer is found in the thin membranes that line the chest and the abdomen. Asbestosis is chronic lung disease that causes shortness of breath, coughing and permanent lung damage. Health concerns related to asbestos did not become public concern until the 1970's.

Although it was known as early as 1920 that asbestos could be harmful to lungs of workers and the connection between asbestos and lung cancer was determined beyond doubt in 1950, asbestos manufactures never gave warning to people exposed to their products until 1960. (April 2006). In 1970 Dr. Selikoff and his collaborators found that some workers exposed to asbestos fibers were at increased risk of lung disease. His works played an important role in removing asbestos from the industry and resulted in media driven hysteria leading to the establishment of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the government involvement to protect its workers. After 1973 there was a huge reduction in asbestos use although the devastation before that time will be with us for years. Once the dangers of asbestos became more



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