Why Is Asbestos So Dangerous?

Once valued for its ability to withstand extreme heat and chemicals and impressive strength, asbestos was a material hugely popular in the component, construction, shipbuilding and automotive industries until the 1970s. The mining of asbestos may be prohibited presently, but the import of asbestos remains. Annually, an estimation of 6,000 deaths in U.S.A. are caused by lung cancer from asbestos exposure.

Where Asbestos Typically Exists

Asbestos are minerals found in the earth’s crust formed by extreme heat and pressure. It poses little threat to human health when low levels are released into the environment through wind and erosion. They are mostly deeply embedded in the ground which is harmless when undisturbed.

However, asbestos is mined for various uses especially for construction materials including amphibole-contaminated vermiculite insulation, which remains in many residentials and other buildings in the United States. This is easily overlooked.

Asbestos is most fatal when easily crumbled, technically known as ‘friable’. Asbestos floor tiles are not defined to be friable as compared to spray-on asbestos insulation where fibers can be released into the air when crumbled by hand. The friability of asbestos-containing materials could depend on wear and tear as well as damage, where fibers are released easily. Materials containing asbestos may not always be deadly if fibers or dust are not released into the atmosphere where they can be inhaled or consumed. These include undamaged and undisturbed fire doors and asbestos-containing ceiling tiles, unless drilling or sawing has been done.

Dangers of Asbestos

Inhalation of asbestos will lead to microscopic fibers being embedded in lung tissues, which occurs though breathing. Although it is possible to remove fibers that may be caught in the mucous membranes of the throat and nose, more fibers could be trapped in the lungs or the digestive tract and cannot be broken down, causing irreversible and irreparable damage to the health.

Due to the microscopic size of the fibers, they are barely visible to the naked eye and hence undetectable unless testing is done to the specific material to determine their presence. In this case, it is possible to only discover the presence of asbestos when the effects on health show on an individual, typically 15 to 35 years later, in some cases, up to 50 years.

Who Stands the Highest Risk of Asbestos Exposure?

Industries with the highest risks include:

  1. Mining (including people they live with)
  2. Construction
  3. Heavy industry
  4. Shipbuilding
  5. Firefighting
  6. The military, especially veterans

Other factors that also contribute to the possibility of suffering from asbestos-related illness include:

  • Lifestyle habits, particularly smoking
  • Age, especially younger people
  • Level and duration of exposure

Health Effects of Asbestos

Asbestos exposure causes three main fatal diseases:

  1. Asbestosis
  2. Lung cancer
  3. Mesothelioma

Asbestos exposure is deadly and difficult to detect. It is crucial to be aware and alert, especially when it remains in use and around us. Prevention is always better than cure. Here at Iris Environmental Laboratories, we provide the most professional asbestos inspection services in the country for extremely affordable prices. Contact us today for more information.