There’s no denying that asbestos is a useful material. It is resistant to electricity, water, heat, and a fantastic insulator for steam engines, ovens, and boilers. It is also extremely malleable, which is why it was used often in building. That said, it is also incredibly dangerous and toxic. When the fibers break down or crumble, it releases tiny particles that can be breathed in and cause all sorts of health issues over time, or at worst, death.
Where can you find asbestos?
Although asbestos is no longer mined in the US, that doesn’t mean it is no longer used, and you may be surprised to hear how much asbestos is still around. The most likely place you will find it is in your home, as it was used for insulation, exterior walls, and ceilings, to name just a few. In commercial buildings, you may find it in floor cavities and lifts or stairwells.
You may also find asbestos in well-known everyday products, such as brake pads on cars and fertilizer. Some of the information around it is unclear. For example, you may want to find out if gold bond powder contains asbestos, as it contains talc, which has been linked to an increased risk of ovarian cancer. Talcum powder was previously a staple baby product but has fallen out of favor in recent years due to this exact reason.
Mesothelioma is an aggressive cancer caused by asbestos exposure – it affects the lungs, abdomen, and heart by attacking the thin membrane that protects these organs. It is incredibly tricky to diagnose as the symptoms don’t show for around 10-50 years after exposure. The actor Steve McQueen died of Pleural Mesothelioma.
Asbestosis is where the asbestos fibers result in permanent scarring and inflammation of the lungs and cause difficulty breathing. It can develop into Mesothelioma, lung cancer, or pulmonary heart disease, and there is no cure for Asbestosis, just ways to ease the symptoms.
The shards of asbestos fibers are incredibly sharp, and if they end up lodged in the skin, they can create calluses. These are certainly not as dangerous as some of the other things associated with asbestos exposure, but they can still cause plenty of problems. One useful thing that they do provide is a clear test if someone is not sure if they have come into contact with asbestos.
Lung cancer is incredibly common in people who have worked with asbestos, and the risk of them developing this is increased if they smoke – another thing that was seen as acceptable during the time before we knew the health risks associated. Research suggests that although the effects of the asbestos cannot be reversed, by quitting smoking, people do lower their chance of developing lung cancer.
Asbestos is banned in many nations across the world, and although it is regulated in the United States, it is still the cause of many deaths, and there is said to be no level of exposure that can be deemed safe.