In the past, our society used some pretty questionable methods of doing things. For example, medical practices that were used back in the Wild West would be looked at now as being quite ridiculous; we wouldn’t immediately jump to chop off a limb just because it’s infected, after all. This is the case in many areas of life, however, not only medicine. Asbestos was frequently used in homes built before 1980 in many materials, such as floor and ceiling tiles, roof shingles, insulation, pipe cement, and many other home aspects. It has since been phased out of use, however, due to the associated health risks. There are great guidelines on Asbestos here.
What Is Asbestos?
Asbestos is a fibrous silicate material that has been used for many things due to its ability to resist fire and electricity, as well as its effectiveness for use in insulation. The particles are microscopic, but they are still very durable for these purposes. Asbestos is often used by being woven into a piece of fabric. In the past, this mineral was seen as magical and miraculous and was praised for its versatile uses for many building purposes.
Health Risks of Asbestos
Just having a product made with asbestos in your home or place of work isn’t necessarily a health risk; asbestos is only dangerous once it has gone airborne, which can happen quickly if the product is damaged or begins to deteriorate. If the particles are inhaled, they can attach themselves to the lungs and respiratory system, which can then cause inflammation and many health problems such as the following:
- Mesothelioma: A severe form of cancer which develops in the membrane, called the mesothelium, which protects the organs within the chest and abdomen. Asbestos is the only recorded cause of this type of cancer.
- Lung cancer: A type of cancer that can also be caused by exposure to asbestos, although this cancer is more typically associated with smoking and radon.
- Asbestosis: A degenerative respiratory condition that develops when scar tissue forms on the lung lining called the pleura. This condition may be followed by the development of mesothelioma.
How to Check for Asbestos
If you fear there may be asbestos present in an older building that you own, there are ways to check whether or not the mineral is present. With that said, a visual inspection will typically not suffice, so a thorough lab analysis will be necessary to evaluate samples of materials that are suspected to contain asbestos. These labs will use an approved method to check the materials, such as Polarized Light Microscopy or Transmission Electron Microscopy. It is best that you do not attempt to collect these samples on your own; instead, you should contact a professional such as http://www.envirosavers.net/ to perform the job for you.
What to Do If Asbestos Is Detected
Depending on where the asbestos is found, the type of asbestos that was found, and the condition of the material, the issue may be handled differently. No matter what, however, is best that you contact a professional immediately to manage this hazard properly and remove it from your home.