7 Things You Need to Know About Asbestos
You hear about “asbestos” and you know it’s dangerous, but what is it really? When you think asbestos, you may think about fluffy pink insulation or white dust clouds but the fact is, asbestos cannot be seen by the naked eye unless it’s in vast quantities. It’s a thin, microscopic fiber slimmer than a human hair. Here are some facts about asbestos to educate you on what it is, why it’s so dangerous, and how you may have already been exposed to this toxic substance.
#1 Asbestos is everywhere
Because asbestos was used so heavily in home and commercial construction, you have likely been in buildings or homes that contain asbestos. Pre-1990s homes often used asbestos in construction whether it was floor or ceiling tiles, insulation or home siding. The older the home, the more likely there is asbestos. For commercial buildings, asbestos is still in use today to some extent. Most older buildings, particularly schools and government buildings, are likely to have asbestos in them.
#2 Asbestos is a remarkable substance
The reason asbestos was used so widely is that it has amazing fire resistant qualities. Asbestos is a silicate mineral that is a fibrous crystal and has been used for more than 4500 years. Because it was so fire proof, pots and pans and earthenware was made using asbestos. Early Persians wove it into cloth that could be cleaned by tossing it in a fire. These amazing properties led it into common usage but the health risks far outweigh the benefits of fire proofing that asbestos offers.
#3 Asbestos is a danger if disturbed
Asbestos can be dangerous if you come into direct contact with it. Asbestos fibers can be inhaled or swallowed and lead to a variety of health concerns ranging from irritating to lethal. However, if asbestos is left undisturbed, it should not pose a danger. For instance, if there is asbestos insulation in a building behind a wall, so long as the wall is never damaged or cut into, the asbestos is contained. But renovation, fire, weather damage and anything that disturbs asbestos can create a health hazard.
#4 Asbestos can cause cancer and other health problems
When asbestos is swallowed or inhaled, it can become lodged in the tissue of the stomach, lungs, or elsewhere in the body. Asbestos can damage the DNA of that tissue making it vulnerable to cancer growth. Even a small quantity of asbestos is enough to trigger negative health effects, but the greater the quantity of asbestos that you’re exposed to and the longer duration of exposure, the greater the health risks. Asbestos can also scar lung tissue resulting in asbestosis, a chronic lung disease.
#5 Asbestos is a risk almost anyone can face
While certain industries have statistically greater odds of asbestos exposure – construction, firefighting, naval and shipbuilding, etc. – anyone can be exposed to asbestos and not know it. If you work in an older building where walls are damaged or there’s renovation, you could be exposed. Older schools may have asbestos that can expose children. If you breathe in smoke from a fire of an older building, you can be exposed to the fibers. It’s a myth that you will know if you’re exposed to asbestos – you can’t feel it.
#6 Asbestos was used in common household items
In addition to being used in construction, asbestos was used in the past in older appliances, talcum powder made pre-1980s, and was used in many household items including aprons, oven mitts, toaster ovens, wallpaper and more. Traces of asbestos were found as recently as last year in crayons and crime scene kit toys for kids – these items were all imports from China where asbestos has continued to be in heavy usage. You may be surprised to find there are items with asbestos in your home right now.
#7 Asbestos causes mesothelioma and other diseases
Asbestos exposure is the only scientifically proven cause of mesothelioma. Almost every case is easily traced back to asbestos exposure, it is the greatest statistical cause of this rare cancer. Lung cancer, which is different from mesothelioma, can also be caused by asbestos exposure. Asbestosis is another disease caused by exposure to the substance. Not only can direct exposure to asbestos cause chronic and fatal disease, but second hand exposure can also cause serious health impacts including cancer.
To find out more about asbestos, check out this list of Asbestos Resources prepared by Bergman Draper Oslund. We are a Pacific Northwest law firm devoted solely to mesothelioma cases all across the US.
Bergman Draper Oslund litigates and settles more mesothelioma cases than any other firm in the Northwest. We are the only area firm devoted solely to mesothelioma and asbestos and have an impressive track record of winning significant settlements for mesothelioma and asbestos victims. Call (888) 647-6007 now to talk about your asbestos health concerns or click here for a free mesothelioma case evaluation.