Is Exposure to Asbestos really a concern? Is the media making it a big deal? Mold has made a big impact on safety and how we think about exposure. Does the same hold true for asbestos? Although there are some myths about mold which are not true, asbestos exposure is a concern to our health. We will review the exposure, and how can we avoid it. We will also look at what the health risks are and how we can protect ourselves from the risk of getting infected.
What is asbestos?
- Asbestos – Chemically, asbestos minerals are silicate compounds, meaning they contain atoms of silicon and oxygen in their molecular structure.
- Mineralogy – A fibrous mineral, either amphibole orchrysotile, formerly used for making incombustible or fireproof articles.
What are the sources and when should we be worried about exposure? Below are the areas we should be concerned about when dealing with building materials:
- Water Heaters
- Pipe and Air Duct Insulation
- Textured Ceilings and Ceiling Tiles
- Vinyl Flooring and Glue
- Roofing and Siding
The only way to be 100% sure if a material contains asbestos is to have it tested. It is recommended to stop any remodeling or construction projects when you think asbestos is present. Sample and test the material to be sure. If you are uncomfortable handling or gathering the samples, there are companies available to perform the testing for you.
If the sample tests positive, a certified abatement company should perform the removal. The health effects resulting from exposure can lead to death, so the government has protocols for asbestos abatement.
What really can happen to me if you become infected? One of the negatives to exposure is most people won’t see any side effects until 15-20 years after exposure. If you are experiencing the following you might want to look into asbestos exposure:
- Shortness of breath
- Coughing Excessively
- Mucus expenditure from lungs
- Changes in the ends of your fingers and toes (Clubbing)
Patients with asbestosis, like others with chronic lung disease, are at a higher risk of serious infection, low oxygen levels in the blood, and heart failure. Moreover, these patients may not recover as quickly from viral and bacterial infections. In addition, they may be at increased risk for certain fungal and unusual infections that take advantage of diseased or scarred lung tissue.
Once diagnosed with asbestosis, what are the treatments?
- Flu and pneumococcal vaccinations are a part of routine care for these patients
- No treatment or cure for asbestosis
- Steroid and immune-based therapies have not been shown to benefit these patients
- Supplemental oxygen during exercise or at rest (depending on the need) may be provided to improve daily function.
- Stop Smoking
At the end of the day, we must remember to protect ourselves. Be prepared and educate yourself on protection in times where you think there might be hazards to your health. Gloves, respirators, goggles, tyvex suits are all items to consider.
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