How Asbestos Can Negatively Affect Your Health
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Asbestos is a term that gets mentioned frequently, often with a negative connotation. If you’ve never heard of or encountered this potentially dangerous material, you might wonder why this is the case, especially when you discover asbestos is still found and used today. Below is an overview of asbestos, how it works and the damage it can cause to the human body.
What Is Asbestos?
Asbestos is a naturally occurring fibrous material made up of six different minerals. It is split into two categories: serpentine asbestos and amphibole asbestos, where the former is more moldable and the latter is more brittle. These fibers are incredibly durable, standing up to heat, chemicals and electricity. Their long-lasting capabilities made asbestos immensely popular when discovered, and its use in commercial building and products was implemented for many years.
How Is Asbestos Harmful?
The fibers making up asbestos can be pulled apart in miniscule sizes to the point where they cannot be seen, smelled or tasted. When asbestos is disturbed or dismantled, these fibers can easily get into the air and unknowingly be inhaled. There are no immediate effects of inhaling asbestos fibers, but the fibers never break down and can remain in the lungs for years with slim chances of being expelled naturally by the body. Serious health concerns are raised much later down the road when the buildup of fibers creates tissue damage, scarring and inflammation.
What Diseases Does Asbestos Cause?
Asbestos is the sole cause of mesothelioma, a cancerous tumor that grows on the lining (mesothelium) of the lungs, heart and abdomen. Once asbestos is inhaled, it can take 10 to 50 years for symptoms of mesothelioma to occur, so it is more common for older people who worked for long periods of time around products containing asbestos to be diagnosed. Symptoms of mesothelioma include chest pain, coughing, short breath, and fluid in the lungs.
Other types of diseases can also form from extended exposure to asbestos:
- Asbestosis (caused by scar tissue)
- Lung cancer (only a small percent of all cases are linked to asbestos)
- Pleural issues, such as plaque buildup, excess fluid, and abnormal thickening
Some of these diseases can be handled as chronic, but mesothelioma is fatal.
Despite a partial ban on asbestos in the late 1980s by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, asbestos can still be found in homes and businesses. If you are concerned about possible asbestos in a building, contact an asbestos abatement contractor in Los Angeles, CA to examine and possibly eradicate any material that may present a health risk.
Thanks to Nielsen Environmental for their insight into asbestos removal and how it can harm your health.