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The Dangers of Asbestos and How to Identify It and Remove

Prolonged exposure to asbestos fibers can have dire consequences. It is important to know how to identify and remove them. There are many different occupations that will have numerous exposures to asbestos, the most familiar being the construction industry. One will not have lasting harm after one exposure, but consistent repetitions can lead to life-threatening problems. Direct inhalation of the fibers can cause build up in your lungs to begin. It is important to educate yourself regarding asbestos and their potential.

Why Was Asbestos Used in the First Place? 

Although asbestos products are dangerous, they were a quality product for commercialization. Asbestos is a mineral that is easily extracted and in great quantity. It was inexpensive to produce, so it was widely used. It was primarily used because it contained many important properties. It was a great insulator, very strong, almost completely fire resistant, and could withstand chemical attack.

The Dangers

The fibers from asbestos are easily carried into the lungs through inhalation. These fibers can lead to abnormalities of the lining of lungs that can eventually lead to diseases.  The effects are not seen immediately but rather built up over time. Putting diseases aside, asbestos can lead to other negative health effects. 10-60 percent of asbestos workers will experience pleural effects due to inhalation. Those working with asbestos are also known to have weaker immune systems.

  • Mesothelioma:

Studies have shown a strong connection between asbestos workers and mesothelioma Malignant mesothelioma is an aggressive cancer that usually results in death. Asbestos can even have an effect on family members. Bringing home saturated clothing can lead to those in the household to even develop mesotheliomas second hand. The fibers absorbed by the clothing will be released into the air in the home.

  • Asbestosis:

Asbestosis is a pulmonary disease that inhibits the functioning of the lungs. It is caused specifically by inhalation of asbestos fibers. The fibers accumulate in the lungs and cause scar tissue to build up. Breathing will become increasingly more and more difficult as less oxygen can fill the lungs and nourish the bloodstream. The damage from this cannot be reversed, but it can be helped with the use of medication and oxygen.

How to Identify 

Asbestos materials were used both inside and outside of buildings. Some are more easily identifiable than others. You can usually identify it visually, but it needs to be confirmed with an analyzed sample. If it is suspected to be present, you need to seek the assistance of a qualified individual. The slightest disturbance can release a dangerous amount of asbestos fibers into the air.

If you are curious about the materials in your building you can follow 3 steps to help identify this culprit.

  • Date the material. If the building was built between 1940-1980 it is highly probable asbestos is present.
  • Asbestos materials are constructed with aluminum runners on the outside of buildings and held together with plastic or wooden runners on the inside. The presence of these runners should be a dead giveaway.
  • If the material seems to have small dimples or shallow craters covering the surface, it likely contains asbestos.

How to Remove 

Asbestos is not always a problem until asbestos-containing material is disturbed. It needs to be handled with great care because of its toxic properties, so it is best to seek help.

1. DIY Method (Not Recommended)

If you are insistent on removing the material on your own it is important that you take all precautions.

  • Wear a mask, gloves, and protective suit to completely cover your clothing.
  • Don’t use power tools to break up the product as this will make more of a mess.
  • Dampen the material with water to limit the dust particles. Keep in mind that it is illegal to water blast asbestos materials.
  • Cover all vents in the house, and tape plastic tarps to the floor in all areas that could be exposed.
  • Once you are ready, reach for the disposal stack and double wrap the materials, and then seal with tape.

2. Seek Professional Help 

The use of asbestos in the home ended decades ago, but if you suspect your home may have some seek help. It very well could be present in your insulation, flooring, ceiling tiles, siding, or even shingles. It is very important that you do not try to remove the material on your own, as these products need to be handled with extreme care. Like mentioned above, trying to remove the product could worsen the damage. The damage is in the fibers released, not always the stationary product.

There are many professional companies that offer asbestos removal services, one of which is Reds Fire and Flood. These companies will be able to remove the damaged asbestos with minimal fibers being released. They also know how to dispose of the product in a safe manner.

Be on Guard 

If your house is impacted by damage, and built before 1980, there is a high chance you could be exposed to asbestos fibers. You need to protect yourself with a mask that covers your nose and mouth. This material is dangerous when inhaled, so hindering this will protect you.

If your house was built before 1980 it may even be wise to prepare an emergency kit in case a situation ever occurs. If you prepare an emergency kit it is wise to have double the masks for everyone in the house, protective eyewear, and gloves. Preparing an emergency kit should be seen as essential if you live in an area prone to tornadoes or hurricanes.

Asbestos is dangerous and should be dealt with in a serious manner. Undamaged products typically pose no threat. It is the damaged products that cause concern. As long as the fibers are not getting into the air, there is not an imminent problem.

If you think you may have dangerous products in your home, seek outside assistance. The fibers released contain toxins and need to be properly disposed.

Image via Bill Bradley / Billbeee at en.wikipedia

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