Asbestos: The Health Risks
Asbestos is the name for a mineral grouping that occurs naturally in nature. It has been widely used, particularly in construction. The fibrous bundles of asbestos are separated to produce thin and durable sheets. The reason why this material has come to be so widely used in various industries is because its fibers have a resistance to heat, fire and chemicals, and it is not a conductor of electricity.
Although the use of asbestos may appear to be practical and harmless, evidence has shown that those exposed to asbestos, whether at home or at the workplace, face a severe health risk. Any disturbance to asbestos products can cause the release of asbestos fibers into the air that may then be breathed in. This can be extremely serious, as when breathed in, the particles could get trapped and remain lodged in the lungs for a long time. The accumulation of these fibers over time causes inflammation and scarring, affecting the respiratory function and can result in severe health problems.
The fact that asbestos has been classified as a human carcinogen should give you a clear idea of the risk it poses. Exposure to asbestos increases the likelihood of developing pleural plaques, pleural thickening, and benign pleural effusions, lung cancer and mesothelioma. Asbestosis is in fact the term for the condition resulting from exposure to asbestos and indicates the presence of symptoms like chest pain, breathing difficulties, scarring, stabbing pains, and other permanent lung damage that increases the risk of the fore mentioned diseases.
There are various factors that can add up to increase the risk posed to you from asbestos exposure.
· The source
· The dosage exposed to
· The duration of the exposure
· The nature of the asbestos fibers or manufacturing process – size, shape and chemical makeup
· Individual considerations such as the presence of a pre-existing lung disease or smoking
The risk of course, increases with heavier and more prolonged exposure, but can also be serious when only brief. Keep in mind that the signs of illness may not surface until long after the initial exposure.