What Is Asbestos And How To Protect Yourself

Asbestos is a silicate mineral that is mined from the ground and, for many years, has been used in a variety of applications. Thanks to its heat and fire resistance, asbestos was a popular material in the construction industry as it provides a cost-effective way of building fire-resistant buildings. Much later, asbestos was shown to be harmful to human health and is known to cause cancer and many other respiratory issues. For this reason, asbestos is no longer excavated in the United States, although it is still legal to import it. This article tells you everything you need to know about asbestos and how to protect yourself from asbestos poisoning.

History of Asbestos

Asbestos is one of the few minerals found in almost all continents. Its long fibers were used by prehistoric men to make candle wicks and other items. Archaeologists discovered asbestos in debris dating as far back as 750,000 years ago. More ‘recent’ asbestos was used by the ancient Egyptians to wrap the bodies of their dead kings to preserve them. Around the same time, early humans in Europe discovered the fire-resistance qualities of asbestos. In Finland circa 2500 BC, asbestos was used by the hunter-gatherer tribes of Europe to coat their clay pots to make them stronger.

More Recent Uses Of Asbestos

In modern times, asbestos found use in the construction industry. Asbestos tiles were used to construct roofing materials, ceilings, and even floors. Another popular use of asbestos that continues to this day is their use in making brake pads. The heat resistance of asbestos makes it ideal for brake pads which have to withstand tremendous amounts of heat during the braking process. Although asbestos is no longer used in construction, many buildings across the United States were built using asbestos. This asbestos still has the potential to cause significant health problems to anyone who comes into contact with it.

Let us now look at how asbestos can cause health problems in human beings.

Health Dangers Of Asbestos

When asbestos degrades, it releases small fiber particles that can float in the air for significant periods of time. When these fibers are inhaled by human beings, they can cause serious respiratory conditions. These include lung cancer, scarring of the lung tissue or asbestosis, or even mesothelioma, a serious form of cancer that affects the lining of lung tissue. It is estimated that more than 100,000 people die every year across the globe from asbestos-related complications. Almost half of these deaths occur in the United States.

Let us now look at some ways to protect yourself from asbestos poisoning.

Identifying Asbestos

Generally speaking, asbestos becomes harmful when it degrades or is disturbed. For this reason, if your house has suffered any damage or is being renovated, it is a good idea to engage the services of an asbestos testing contractor who will inspect your building and determine if there is any asbestos. Such contractors will also test the air for asbestos fibers, which will help determine how much exposure (if any) your family is facing. When purchasing a new home, it is also a good idea to have the house tested for any asbestos, as it may expose your family to health risks.

Post-Clearance Testing

Assuming that asbestos was found in your property, the next step would be to engage the services of an asbestos removal firm that will safely remove the hazardous material from your building. It is always a good idea to do a post-clearance test to ensure that any traces of asbestos have been cleared and that the air in your house is safe to breathe.