Why is Asbestos Dangerous?

Asbestos is probably more dangerous than you think…

When materials that contain asbestos are disturbed or damaged, fibers are released into the air. When these fibers are inhaled they can cause serious diseases. These diseases will not affect you immediately; they often take a long time to develop, but once diagnosed, it is often too late to do anything. This is why it is important that you protect yourself now.

Asbestos Statistics

  • Asbestos still kills around 5000 workers each year, this is more than the number of people killed on the road.
  • Around 20 tradesmen die each week as a result of past exposure.
  • Asbestos is not just a problem of the past. It can be present today in any building built or refurbished before the year 2000.

Before going deeper into the details of why asbestos is dangerous, lets look at why and how it was used in the first place.

Haztrainer trains contractors, school maintenance workers, real estate workers, roofing professionals, HVAC professionals, housekeepers, and workers in other occupations that clean or work in environments with asbestos.

Asbestos: Brief history and background

Asbestos – a group of whitish mineral fibers that occur naturally, dates back centuries. While America began regulating the use of asbestos in the 1970s, the use dates back to 4000 B.C. according to some archaeologists. Ancient applications of asbestos range from making clay pots to wrapping the dead to prevent deterioration.

The dangers of asbestos are documented since ancient times. While the Romans and Greeks exploited asbestos, those who worked closely with asbestos (mainly slaves) got a disease dubbed “disease of slaves”.

Why is Asbestos Dangerous?

Asbestos is dangerous mainly because of the way the fibers enter the body i.e., through breathing. It’s worth noting that asbestos-containing materials aren’t considered dangerous unless the fibers or dust is released into the air. Airborne fibers can be easily inhaled. When this happens, they become trapped in the mucous membrane. Some fibers can find their way to the lungs or digestive system when swallowed.

Undisturbed asbestos-containing material isn’t dangerous. The material must be damaged in a way to release the fibers into the air. This is precisely why persons working in areas with asbestos require special training. Physical impact like buffing, grinding, drilling, sawing, striking, or cutting can break materials containing asbestos making the fibers airborne.

The dangers of asbestos exposure are best explored when the fibers enter the body.

Health effects of asbestos. What happens when asbestos isn’t dealt with?

The human body can’t breakdown asbestos fibers or eliminate the fibers when they get stuck in the mucous membrane or other body tissues. When these foreign fibers remain in the body, they cause three deadly diseases.

1. Asbestosis

This chronic but non-cancerous respiratory disease scars the lung tissues. Asbestosis causes symptoms such as shortness of breath and crackling sounds when inhaling. Advanced asbestosis can cause cardiac failure.

Asbestosis is so dangerous since there is no treatment. The disease either disables or kills its victims. Asbestosis is common among persons who work with asbestos, such as construction workers who demolish or renovate old buildings containing asbestos. The risks can be reduced through proper training.

2. Lung Cancer

Lung cancer causes the most asbestos exposure-related deaths. Like asbestosis, asbestos-related lung cancer is most common among individuals who work directly with asbestos (those who mine, mill, or involved directly in the manufacturing or use of materials containing asbestos. Common symptoms of asbestos-related lung cancer include coughing, change in breathing, shortness of breath, hoarseness, anemia, and persistent chest pains. Smokers are highly likely to get cancer if they’ve been exposed to asbestos.

3. Mesothelioma

Asbestos is also dangerous because it causes mesothelioma – a rare cancer that attacks the membrane lining in the chest, lungs, abdomen, and heart. Mesothelioma is directly linked to asbestos exposure. The cancer affects individuals who work directly with asbestos, such as miners and asbestos mill/factory workers. The cancer is also common among those living with persons who are directly exposed to asbestos at work.

Asbestos: Safety information/guidelines

Persons exposed to asbestos at work must meet specific OSHA standards. OSHA has standards for workers in construction, general industry, shipyard and other industries whose workers have a greater chance of being exposed. The standards decrease risks of exposure to asbestos.

For instance, employers are supposed to offer their employees personal exposure monitoring to help them assess risk. Employers are also required to take their employees through asbestos awareness training. Employers should also protect their workers by setting up regulated areas, having specific work practices and engineering controls that reduce airborne asbestos levels.

Haztrainer is one of the few places where employers can secure affordable OSHA-certified asbestos training for their employees online. Haztrainer offers online training courses that cover the most important aspects of asbestos handling.

Remember, employers in some industries are required by OSHA to provide asbestos awareness training to their employees on a yearly basis. If your workers risk being exposed to asbestos at work, Haztrainer is your best option for cheap and convenient training that meets regulatory guidelines. The training can happen anywhere. It can also be paused and continued depending on availability.