Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Asbestos Exposure in the Workplace: Tips & Prevention

By Joe Lederman

Throughout the greater part of the 20th century, a naturally-occurring mineral known as asbestos was utilized in a variety of applications. Due to its flame resistant, highly durable and inexpensive qualities, it became the ideal choice for manufacturers. Asbestos can appear in roof shingles, dry wall, attic insulation, popcorn ceilings and electrical wires.

The mineral was mixed into paint, combined with cellulose to make fiberboard and wallboard, mixed with cement to make siding shingles and formed into felt for use as roof felting and backings on vinyl flooring. Asbestos was even used in joint compound, which was used in dozens of different kinds of applications.

Hidden from the public for decades, exposure to asbestos can lead to the development of the mesothelioma disease, as well as many other health ailments that are extremely difficult to treat and diagnose. Due to these effects, it is recommended that men and women in the workplace receive proper information and tips to avoid any inhalation of asbestos. The use of asbestos became extremely prevalent in various industries which lead to many tradesmen being wrongfully exposed to airborne asbestos fibers.

Workers from practically all trades were involved with asbestos, even those that worked in the unlikeliest of professions. Asbestos was used in a variety of different products and was largely found in shipyards, power plants, chemical plants, factories, steel mills, building construction, and the telephone industry. Some of the occupations that commonly came in contact with asbestos include: asbestos textile mill, automobile production, building engineers, electrical workers, military personnel, custodians, pipefitters, railroad workers and firefighters.

Healthy Tips & Info
Asbestos exposure is easily prevented by taking simple precautions. Any home or building built before 1980 has a good chance of still containing asbestos. Even firehouses should be inspected for asbestos as many of them were constructed prior to any asbestos ban.

Licensed abatement contractors who remove asbestos, will be familiar with the regulations in protecting you and themselves from exposure to asbestos. They must wear protective equipment such as masks and gloves to avoid any exposure. The area is usually isolated from the rest of the house by shutting down ventilation systems and sealing them.

If you locate any suspected asbestos, most experts advise to leave it alone and un-disturbed. When asbestos is left alone, it is harmless. But if the material is disturbed or becomes damaged, millions of tiny fibers are released into the air where they can then be inhaled or ingested. If you encounter black or dark asphalt floor tiles, they may contain high levels of asbestos fibers.

These fibers become lodged in the tissue of organs (most often the lungs) and can eventually cause a number of illnesses such as malignant mesothelioma and asbestosis. Diagnosis of this asbestos-related lung illness is a difficult task due to a long latency period and many symptoms mimicking less serious ailments. A reported 2,000 to 3,000 mesothelioma cases are diagnosed every year in the United States alone, which averages out to three percent of the total cancer diagnoses. A patient’s prognosis can be affected by many factors, these include: age of diagnosis, treatment methods and cigarette smoking.

If you are or have worked in any of the listed trades and believe you have experienced asbestos exposure, it is important to receive regular screenings by physicians to identify a possible disease. It should be known asbestos exposure does not always lead to a disease, but because the latency periods associated with asbestos illnesses can last 20 to 50 years, a regular check up is advisable.

Resource
Asbestos.com

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