Asbestos and Health Effects
It is a common misconception that newer buildings, specifically those built after 1980, cannot contain asbestos. This misconception can lead to health effects, as many people are not aware that materials in their home may contain asbestos and are therefore less likely to have their homes tested for asbestos.
Inhalation of asbestos allows the fibers to settle into the lungs. Once in the lungs, the body cannot break down the fibers. When ingested, asbestos can cause diseases such as asbestosis, mesothelioma, COPD, and many forms of cancer, some of the most common being colon cancer, esophagus cancer, lung cancer, stomach cancer, and rectal cancer. It can also cause or aggravate breathing and lung related issues. The latency period (the time between initial exposure and diagnosis) for asbestos related illnesses is between 10 and 40 years.
There are also important contributing factors to the health effects of asbestos
Fiber Size – The smaller the asbestos fiber the further into the body it can travel. This is why pulverized asbestos containing material (called friable asbestos) is more dangerous than larger pieces, as it can be inhaled much easier.
Dust Density – The higher the dust level, the greater risk of inhaling asbestos fibers.
Length of Exposure – The longer one is exposed, the more likely one will develop an asbestos related disease. Therefore, testing is important, as it can be a proactive approach to preventing health issues.
Personal Susceptibility – Each person is different and some people, such as the elderly, are more susceptible to asbestos related disease.
Smoking – Smoking greatly increases the risk of getting an asbestos related disease, as the body cannot defend itself as well from airborne contaminates.
Environmental testing can provide insight into the content of the breathable air in your home, and therefore can help prevent prolonged exposure to hazardous materials.
If you suspect your home has friable asbestos containing material, you had a recent leak or flooding, have visible or suspected mold growth, or simply want peace of mind regarding the air quality of your home, air sampling by an environmental professional is highly recommended.
Environmental testing is also recommended if you are moving into a new space. This will help determine what the previous tenants left behind, such as allergens or bacteria, as well as help determining how safe the building is for occupancy.
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