Asbestos is a product that has been used for decades in the manufacturing and construction industries. It’s been used as a form of insulation and in building materials for homes, businesses, and other types of buildings. It wasn’t until about 50 years ago, that we started to realize the dangers it posed in terms of being a carcinogen and irritant to the lungs.
What Is Asbestos?
Asbestos is made up of six fibers that occur naturally in the environment. The soft fibers are extremely flexible making it an ideal insulator. Asbestos is also heat resistant. Its ability to resist high temperatures is why it has been used in items that need to be fire retardants, such as fire helmets, hoses, and other fire gear. It is also easily blended with other materials like cloth, paper, plaster, and plastic. Although it occurs naturally, the mineral fibers can be extremely harmful if they become airborne and inhaled into the lungs.
Where Is It Found?
Asbestos can be found in any number of places both inside and outside your home. Many years ago, it was used as insulation to keep our homes nice and warm. It was also used as insulation and packing material in the manufacturing and construction industry. It’s the ability to resist heat made it a good choice for use around boilers, kilns, and other large stoves and heaters. It has also been used in the shipping industry.
Why Is It Harmful?
The natural fibers that make up asbestos are very lightweight and soft. They can easily become airborne and be inhaled into the lungs. Once inside the body, the fibers become embedded in the soft tissues and begin to accumulate. The repeated exposure allows more and more of the fibers to make their way inside the body. Everywhere the fibers start to collect, damage occurs. Over time, this irreversible damage can lead to conditions like mesothelioma, asbestosis, and lung cancer.
What Symptoms Should I Look For?
Individuals who have been exposed to asbestos may not show any signs of illness or disease for several years. When symptoms do appear, they can range from very mild to severe and are oftentimes thought to be associated with other types of illness or disease. Symptoms include shortness of breath, chest pain, painful cough, tightness in the chest, and little or no appetite.
If you are interested in finding more asbestos information, there are several resources available to you. Speak to your doctor or look up the information online. Reliable references normally end in .gov or .edu and will have a variety of different resources to support their information.