Asbestos and Respiratory Health
The winter season brings attention to indoor respiratory health–especially during the ongoing pandemic. The Coronavirus directly affects the lungs and poses a severe threat to those living with critical pre-existing conditions like lung cancer. While lung cancer is one of the leading cancers and causes of cancer deaths in the U.S., mesothelioma, which is often misdiagnosed for lung cancer, is an entirely preventable disease that similarly touches on respiratory health. Mesothelioma is a type of cancer caused by asbestos inhalation or ingestion.
Asbestos has been used for centuries as a popular home building additive. While these thin, microscopic fibers provide fireproofing, durability, and heat resiliency, they are also highly friable. To be friable leaves the potential for asbestos to disintegrate and become airborne.
Homeowners living in homes built prior to the 1980s, before asbestos bans appeared, are at a higher risk for exposure. This mineral can pollute the indoor air environment, along with other common household toxins including radon, formaldehyde, mold, carbon monoxide, and lead.
Before diving into the health concerns and symptoms related to asbestos exposure, you should be aware of the products and materials that contain asbestos in the U.S, since it is a country that still incorporates asbestos into buildings and supplies.
A variety of home materials and products use asbestos as an additive, which when broken down, present serious hazards if consumed or inhaled. Some products that are well-known for containing asbestos are:
● Popcorn ceilings
● Fire-Resistant Products
● Roofing materials
● Vinyl flooring
The leading disease that develops as a result of inhaled or ingested asbestos is mesothelioma. Many patients who are diagnosed with this type of cancer are usually exposed through their jobs, home renovations, or secondary exposure. You may be at risk in any of these occupations:
● Home renovation
Those working in occupations who were exposed to this fiber who are now facing a mesothelioma diagnosis can receive support by filing claims against their employer. Asbestos became a cause of concern in the 1900s after there was mounting evidence that this material led to severe respiratory and health issues. Besides mesothelioma, exposure to asbestos can also lead to
● Ovarian cancer
● Lung cancer
● Laryngeal cancer
● Pleural thickening
● Pleural plaques
Federal regulations have set standards for asbestos use in the US. Organizations like the Environment Protection Agency (EPA), Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), and Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) have controlled exposure and helped change the way we use it in industries, where asbestos was previously unmanaged.
Asbestos still presents a critical peril to homeowners. Although you may be exposed to minute levels of asbestos through home deterioration or renovation, any quantity could lead to chronic illness. Natural disasters, material corrosion, demolition, cutting, or any other activity that could disturb the delicate fibers could force the fibers to enter the body and lodge themselves onto vulnerable organs.
If you suspect that asbestos is anywhere in your home, it is essential to seek professional help. Handling asbestos by yourself is not advised, as it’s a high-risk fiber that can be unpredictable if tampered with. Thankfully, there are experts and even legal avenues for you to have the appropriate help depending on your situation.