Managing Exposure in Asbestos Abatement

Asbestos Related Health Problems Led to Asbestos Abatement

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Asbestos is a group of minerals that occurs as bundles of fibers in a natural environment. These fibers are heat resistant and do not conduct electricity. This has led to their being widely used in industrial products and in combination with cement as a material for roofing, insulation and sound absorption and fireproofing. When these materials are exposed to the elements and other weathering, the fibers that make up the material become part of the atmosphere and when air containing these fibers is inhaled these fibers lodge in the lungs and give rise to respiratory and other diseases. These fibers accumulate in the lungs and can cause inflammation and scarring, which can further lead to lung cancer and mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is rare but is associated completely with asbestos exposure, and causes a cancer in the membranes that line the abdomen and chest. Asbestos exposure can also cause permanent lung damage.

The health related problems associated with asbestos has led to environmental concern and the idea of asbestos abatement which involves the removal of asbestos and its products from homes, workplaces, schools and other locations. Asbestos was earlier very widely used in ships in engine rooms, piping and other locations. This has led to even the dismantling of ships being viewed suspiciously by environmental groups. Popcorn ceilings or acoustic ceilings were very popular in most homes built after 1950 and used asbestos based paints and materials to create a ‘popcorn’ texture. The dangers associated with asbestos have led to such ceilings falling out of favor and being replaced by other newer materials. So removal of such popcorn ceilings has led to asbestos abatement procedures in homes as well.

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Asbestos Abatement Can Cause Exposure That Can Be Dangerous

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While asbestos is being rapidly replaced by other materials, the removal of asbestos or asbestos abatement has led to it becoming a specialized field with a lot of professional companies coming into it. The EPA or Environmental Protection Agency has laid down guidelines for asbestos that govern such companies and their handling and disposal of the removed asbestos.

One of the guidelines follows the principle of "If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it." The EPA suggests that asbestos materials that are in good condition will not release asbestos fibers and therefore should be left untouched. They also suggest that removal of asbestos should be done by asbestos abatement companies who are properly qualified.

Asbestos abatement exposure can be dangerous. This can come from renovation procedures in homes and even the cleaning of gutters from roofs that are covered by asbestos sheets. While such brief asbestos exposure is not very dangerous, it can still cause problems that can last for a couple of weeks or months. Ship breaking also leads to short term asbestos exposure. In such cases the proper use of breathing equipment and moistening of the surface can reduce inhalation of fibers.

Firefighter exposure to asbestos is also common when fires have to be tackled in buildings that predate 1980, as after this date the use of asbestos has been barred in construction. This has led to the awareness that firefighters are at the risk of mesothelioma and lung cancer.

Companies that are into asbestos abatement use a lot of safety equipment for their workers which conform to NIOSH standards while OSHA offers inspection and information about asbestos exposure.

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Asbestos Exposure and Cancer Risk

Asbestos Abatement

Short Term Asbestos Exposure

Firefighters – Mesothelioma Risks