When it comes to potential hazards in older homes or buildings, few materials raise as many concerns as asbestos. Widely used in construction for decades because of its fire-resistant and insulating properties, asbestos later became a major health concern. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that as many as 30 million homes still have asbestos in them.
You may wonder why asbestos exposure stirs up so much unease and whether you should worry about it.
Inhaling asbestos fibers can lead to severe health problems. Over time, these fibers can accumulate in your lungs, leading to inflammation and scarring. This buildup can result in diseases like asbestosis, a chronic lung condition that causes shortness of breath and, in more severe cases, can be fatal.
More alarmingly, asbestos exposure also correlates with an increased risk of lung cancer and mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer that affects the lining of the lungs and abdomen. These diseases often manifest many years after exposure, making early detection and intervention important.
Pervasiveness in older structures
If you reside in or frequently visit older buildings, the chance of encountering asbestos-laden materials is high. Before researchers identified the health risks, manufacturers favored asbestos for various products, from roofing shingles to insulation to floor tiles. Due to its widespread use, many older structures still contain asbestos, posing a risk if they undergo renovation or demolition.
Unseen but present
One of the most unnerving characteristics of asbestos is its invisibility to the naked eye. Asbestos-containing materials, when disturbed, release microscopic fibers into the air. You can unknowingly inhale these fibers, making it essential to take precautions when dealing with potential asbestos materials.
The importance of professional handling
Given the health risks, if you suspect the presence of asbestos in a building or home, it is important not to attempt its removal on your own. Professionals trained in asbestos abatement possess the tools and knowledge to handle and dispose of this material safely. They will ensure minimal release of fibers into the air, safeguarding your health and those around you.
The concerns surrounding asbestos exposure are well-founded and serious. While its hazardous nature might not be immediately evident, the long-term health implications are undeniable. Being informed, cautious and proactive when dealing with potential asbestos exposure will go a long way in ensuring your safety and well-being.