Asbestos is a mineral formed of heat-resistant fibers that belong to the class of six naturally occurring minerals. It was utilized in thousands of U.S. consumer goods before it was discovered that asbestos-caused cancer. Mesothelioma, lung cancer, and other cancers are caused by asbestos. Asbestos is regulated but not banned in the United
What Is Asbestos?
Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral composed of flexible fibers that are heat, electricity, and corrosion-resistant. The mineral’s strengths make it useful, but its toxicity makes asbestos exposure extremely dangerous.
Consumers may be concerned about the health effects of asbestos. Unfortunately, exposure to asbestos can result in cancer and a variety of other illnesses. Asbestos is a known cause of mesothelioma, a rare and aggressive form of cancer that grows in the lining of the lungs. Asbestosis is a progressive lung disease caused by asbestos exposure.
Asbestos has been used in construction since the early 1900s as a very effective insulator, and it may be sprinkled on fabric, paper, cement, plastic, and other materials to make them more durable. However, when asbestos dust is breathed or ingested into the body, the fibers may become permanently embedded.
Asbestos fibers may accumulate in your body for decades, causing irritation, scarring, and genetic damage over time.
Types of Asbestos
The Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act of 1986 classifies six types of asbestos, each falling into one of two categories: Amphibole and serpentine.
Serpentskin asbestos fibers are curly. There is only one type of chrysotile asbestos, which is also known as “white asbestos.”
Amphibole asbestos fibers are straight and jagged. There are five distinct types: Amphibole is a general term for any type of mineral fiber that has distinctive properties.
Where Does Asbestos Come From?
Asbestos can be found in large deposits or as contaminants in minerals such as talc and vermiculite. Serpentine rock is generally chrysotile asbestos’s habitat, but it may also be found in veins.
Asbestos is mined in a variety of countries around the world, with Russia, Kazakhstan, and China being the top contributors. The poisonous mineral was formerly extracted in North America.
Most commercial asbestos deposits have 5% to 6% asbestos, but some, such as the Coalinga deposit in California, include 50 percent or more asbestos.
According to scientific studies, asbestos exposure is linked to a variety of illnesses, including cancer. Mesothelioma is an extremely rare form of cancer that almost exclusively results from asbestos exposure. The mineral also causes lung and laryngeal cancer as well as ovarian cancer due to its presence.
OTHER ASBESTOS-RELATED DISEASES INCLUDE:
Asbestos Exposure Risks
The majority of individuals with asbestos-related diseases are men in their 60s or older. This is due to the fact that asbestos-related illnesses have a lengthy latency period, which on average takes decades to manifest. They usually originate from occupational exposure at businesses formerly run by males.
No amount of asbestos exposure is healthy. When a person is exposed to an excessive quantity of asbestos or is exposed on a regular basis over a long period of time, it has the most negative effects.
Asbestos builds up in the body with every exposure, and there is no effective treatment.
When fibers are released into the air, they are quickly absorbed. It is critical to keep away from anything that may contain asbestos. Furthermore, people who reside near naturally occurring asbestos deposits should avoid digging in contaminated soil.
Between 1940 and 1979, according to the Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry, about 27 million people were exposed to asbestos. The risk of exposure in the workplace has been reduced, but there is still a small amount of risk for many jobs.
From the 1930s through the 1970s, asbestos was extensively utilized by the U.S. military, especially on Navy ships, resulting in a disproportionately high burden of asbestos-related illness among veterans.
Asbestos Manufacturing HIGH-RISK Occupations
- Firefighting Services
- Heavy Industry
- Electricity Generation
- Military Service
Secondhand exposure to asbestos also poses a danger for family members of veterans and other asbestos workers, who have an increased chance of developing an asbestos-related disease as a result.
Residents living near an asbestos-contaminated mine or processing facility face a heightened risk of environmental contamination. Worksites for the asbestos industry have existed across the United States, including Ambler, Pennsylvania’s town center, and Grand Central Terminal in New York City.
Vermiculite, for example, has been linked to numerous health issues in individuals who lived near a vermiculite mine in Libby, Montana. One of the worst environmental catastrophes in American history was caused by decades of vermiculite mining near the Superfund site. The ore included traces of asbestos that poisoned miles of territory
Manufacturers must seek government approval before marketing discontinued uses of asbestos, according to a new EPA regulation that took effect in 2019.
Today, when Americans are exposed to asbestos, it is usually as a result of building renovation or deconstruction work on an old structure that still contains legacy asbestos materials.
Discontinued Asbestos Products
The following products are discontinued asbestos products:
- Asbestos sealants
- Asbestos cement and coatings
- Vinyl asbestos tiles
- Asbestos roofing felt
- Asbestos adhesives
- Asbestos reinforced plastics
How to Identify Asbestos Products
Microscopic asbestos fibers are invisible, odorless, and tasteless. The only way to discover asbestos in an unidentified material is to have a sample tested at a lab or hire an accredited asbestos inspector if it is labeled as such.
Asbestos Materials Fall into Two Risk Categories:
Nonfriable asbestos materials
Nonfriable asbestos materials, Asbestos cement slabs, and vinyl asbestos tiles are durable, hence Nonfriable materials.
The long-term health effects of nonfriable asbestos materials, such as asbestos cement slabs and vinyl asbestos tiles, are unknown. As long as the items are undisturbed, these products retain asbestos fibers safely trapped. Fibers may be released by sawing, scraping, or smashing the item.
Friable asbestos materials
By hand, friable asbestos materials are simple to break or crumble. Talcum powder that has been contaminated with asbestos is one example. These things are hazardous since they have the ability to release harmful dust into the air easily. These are friable asbestos materials.
Tips for Safely Handling Asbestos
In certain cases, asbestos-containing materials must be removed. However, it may be preferable to leave the materials as they are or encapsulate them with a sealant. For the most accurate information, see a qualified asbestos abatement specialist.
Asbestos is a mineral fiber that occurs naturally in rocks and soil. It can be spun into thin, thread-like fibers for use in heat-proofing building materials, insulation on equipment run by electricity, car brake pads, and clutches. This versatile material has been used commercially since the early part of the twentieth century. Since then it has become evident that exposure to asbestos fibers can cause serious illnesses.
The majority of health problems associated with the asbestos result from breathing in or ingesting the tiny, microscopic fibers of this mineral. These fibers are so small they may be invisible to the naked eye. Asbestos, however, is extremely dangerous when it becomes airborne and if precautions are not taken, its fibers can become lodged deep within the lungs. There, it can cause problems that include the development of scar tissue around the lungs (plaques) and cancer (mesothelioma). Asbestos insulation may also produce a dusty fiber compound when mixed with water to form a gypsum board (drywall).
None of these asbestos-containing materials should be handled without the proper protective gear and by someone wearing a respirator mask. This is probably the most important tip for safely handling asbestos: if it is to be removed, contact an asbestos abatement expert.
The following tips can help you ensure your safety during any projects that involve asbestos:
- Do not try to remove materials containing asbestos yourself. Call a trained and certified asbestos abatement specialist.
- Properly seal all openings around pipes, ducts or electrical wires so that asbestos fibers do not become airborne when the surrounding insulation is removed. If a fiber-blocking material is available in your area, use it to fill in the opening once the asbestos abatement has been completed.
- Wear a mask that is designed to filter out asbestos fibers when removing any materials suspected of containing the mineral. The mask should be equipped with an organic vapor canister, which will help prevent you from inhaling airborne moisture which is another cause of asbestos-related illnesses. A respirator with a HEPA filter is also effective against asbestos and other harmful substances.
- Do not sand down the fibers of asbestos-containing material; this will only scatter it into the air, where it can become airborne and potentially cause harm.
- If you suspect that you have been exposed to asbestos or if you develop symptoms such as a persistent cough, swelling in the abdomen or chest, or difficulty breathing after working with asbestos-containing materials, seek medical attention immediately. These conditions can develop many years after exposure to this toxic mineral.
Is Asbestos Banned?
- Asbestos is a mineral that was used in building construction all across the world for several years and its use has led to health hazards. This hazardous material is also sometimes known as chrysotile and amosite. The United States, Canada, and Japan are some of the countries where this product has been banned completely while it continues to be widely used in developing countries of the world like India and China.
- Asbestos is hazardous to human beings as it can cause serious diseases like lung cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestosis. Exposure to this material may also result in other health complications such as lung irritation and gastrointestinal problems. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that more than 107,000 people die annually from asbestos-related diseases like lung cancer and mesothelioma.
- The United States banned the use of raw asbestos in most products by 1972; however, the use of asbestos-containing materials is still legal if they were installed before that year. In 1989, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a final rule prohibiting any new asbestos products.
- Moreover, in 1989, the EPA banned most asbestos-containing products. Only vermiculite plaster is allowed so long as it complies with regulations devised by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Some exceptions are made for existing stocks (i.e., that which was produced before 1989 or imported before June 22, 1973), which are sold until it becomes exhausted.
- Asbestos has been banned in 55 countries due to its widespread use and health hazard implications. It has also become illegal for many products made with this substance to be sold in the United States. Although other countries have not completely banned the use of asbestos, their regulations are stringent and require full disclosure to customers.
- Although asbestos is not illegal in the United States, it is highly regulated. The asbestos industry maintains powerful lobbying groups that fight for its rights. Although asbestos remains widely used in Russia, China, India, and Mexico.
Safe Alternatives to Asbestos
Manufacturers in the United States have largely discontinued the use of asbestos since the 1980s, relying on a number of safer alternatives instead.
Amorphous silica fabric
Amorphous silica fabric is a high-quality woven cloth composed of nearly pure amorphous silica fibers. The fibers do not rot or burn, just as asbestos does.
Cotton, wood pulp, linen, or shredded paper that has been chemically treated to improve its characteristics is used to make cellulose fiber.
Spray polyurethane foam is both cost-effective and successful at insulation. Spray polyurethane foam can be used to insulate and seal buildings with ease.
Thermoset plastic flour
Thermoset flour is a type of plastic that’s made up of a combination of wood fibers and binders, such as egg or gelatin, which are hardened and finely crushed.
Timeline of Asbestos
- In the late 1800s, asbestos mining became a significant source of fibers for industrial uses.
- The first asbestos-related sickness claim was filed in 1927.
- The asbestos industry conducted medical studies and kept the results hidden.
- In 1933: 11 asbestosis claims are resolved by Johns Manville.
- In 1960, medical research confirm asbestos causes mesothelioma.
- In 1970, the first large asbestos lawsuit was won by an asbestos insulator.
What should I know about asbestos and mesothelioma-related illnesses?
- Asbestos is a mineral composed of fibrous fibers that may be found in a variety of locations, including walls and ceilings.
- Asbestos fibers are trapped in the body if breathed for lengthy durations, causing illnesses such as mesothelioma, lung cancer, and asbestosis.
- After a complex history of legislation and regulation, asbestos continues to be utilized in the United States despite the fact that more than 50 countries have banned its usage.
- Hiring an asbestos abatement firm to remove asbestos from houses and businesses is the greatest approach to keep everyone safe.
- Those who have been exposed to asbestos may be eligible for compensation. Asbestos litigation and settlements are handled by mesothelioma attorneys, who average $1 million to $2.4 million in compensation in such claims.