Asbestos is a naturally-occurring fibrous mineral that is incredibly durable and highly resistant to heat and corrosion. Thanks to these characteristics, asbestos was once seen as something of a wonder material that was used in a number of industries for decades. It was found in textiles, brake pads, paint, insulation, hot water pipes, and insulation. Unfortunately, the durability and versatility of asbestos came with a huge downside: the mineral was linked to a number of serious health conditions, including many kinds of aggressive cancer.
Why Asbestos is Dangerous
While materials containing asbestos are perfectly safe most of the time, they can cause serious problems if they are damaged or disturbed. Asbestos is fibrous in nature, and it can shed microscopic fibers that can be inhaled or ingested. These fibers are durable enough to stay in a person’s body for decades, and during that time they create scar tissue in the linings of the internal organs and cause serious problems.
One of the most common health conditions caused by asbestos exposure is asbestosis. Asbestosis develops when asbestos fibers in the lungs create scar tissue that prevents oxygen from entering the blood. Naturally, the scarring also makes it difficult to breathe. Symptoms of asbestosis include shortness of breath, a cough that produces mucus, chest pains, and a loss of appetite. You may also hear a dry, crackling sound in your lungs when you inhale. Asbestosis typically develops after years of prolonged asbestos exposure, and although there is no known cure the condition can be managed through medication, physical therapy, or surgery.
Mesothelioma is among the most deadly and feared conditions associated with asbestos exposure. Mesothelioma is a rare and aggressive cancer that affects the mesothelium, or the lining around the internal organs. The most common form of the disease is pleural mesothelioma, which affects the lungs. Like asbestosis, mesothelioma develops after years of prolonged exposure to asbestos. Symptoms include chest pains, shortness of breath, a persistent cough, difficulty swallowing, unintended weight loss, and fatigue. Mesothelioma is difficult to diagnose since its symptoms are so easy to overlook in the disease’s early stages. Many patients don’t receive a diagnosis until the cancer is in its advanced stages when it’s often too late for effective treatment. There is no known cure for mesothelioma, and the prognosis is often grim.
According to Shrader & Associates at www.yourmesotheliomalawfirm.com, the good news concerning asbestos is that most of its traditional uses have been effectively banned for over thirty years. The bad news is that the substance was so widely used that it is still possible to encounter it. Buildings that were built before the early 1980s may still contain asbestos in their drywall, floor tiles, roofing shingles, and hot water pipes. In most cases, this isn’t a problem. As long as these materials are undamaged and undisturbed, the chances of actually being exposed to asbestos are minimal. If you notice things such as peeling floor tiles or crumbling drywall in an older building, the chances of asbestos exposure are much higher. You still will be unlikely to develop a serious health condition from one-time or occasional exposure, but you will want to avoid prolonged exposure.
If you believe you and your family live in a home that contains asbestos, the best thing to do is to leave it alone until you can have it removed by a professional asbestos abatement service. This will help keep your family healthy and minimize the risk of exposure.