If you’ve been exposed to asbestos, you should know the risks and the symptoms.
It’s important to take asbestos exposure and asbestos removal seriously. You need to seek professional care for your asbestos-containing environment and body ASAP if you suspect (or know) you’ve been exposed.
Lucky for you, we know a thing or two about asbestos exposure and asbestos removal, and we’re eager to share.
Here’s everything you need to know about asbestos.
What is asbestos?
Asbestos is a set of naturally-occurring minerals. These minerals are made of fine, durable fibers that are resistant to heat, fire, and many other chemicals.
Once considered miracle minerals, they were added to construction material and fireperson uniforms for their uniquely indestructible qualities. Now, though, we know that exposure to them can cause mesothelioma, a fatal cancer of the lungs, as well as other lung-related illnesses.
All types of asbestos minerals are odorless and tasteless, and they can’t be seen by a naked-eye visual test. That they’re difficult to detect only makes them more dangerous.
How can I be exposed to asbestos?
Since asbestos is common and naturally occurring, most everyone has come into contact with it at low levels. It’s large and routine levels of exposure that cause major health problems.
In your home…
Your house’s building materials (insulation, drywall, ceiling and floor tiles, roof shingles, pipes, furnaces, textured paints, etc.), might contain asbestos, and if they do, damage to those materials can disrupt and dislodge the asbestos fibers into the air. The older your house, the more likely it’s made of materials containing asbestos.
On the job…
People who work (or who have worked in the last several decades) in a factory, power plant, mill, mine, or shipyard, on a railroad, in construction, or in the building materials, automobile, or clothes laundering industries are more likely to have been exposed to asbestos.
Do you live with someone who works in an asbestos-infected workplace?
If you do, you’ve almost certainly been exposed to asbestos. The asbestos fibers make their way to your home on your family member’s work clothing at the end of each day.
If you’re handling your family member’s dusty work clothes before tossing them into the wash, you’re releasing the asbestos fibers into the air. Now you and your other housemates are breathing and swallowing them in.
In your environment…
It’s possible to inhale or ingest asbestos fibers in polluted air – perhaps traveling through the air from a nearby factory or a recently demolished public building or home.
What can happen to me if I’m exposed to asbestos?
When you inhale or swallow asbestos, your body has a hard time expelling the fibers, which lodge themselves in the soft tissues of your lungs and abdomen.
The common lung-related illnesses caused by asbestos exposure are:
Asbestosis, which is the widespread scarring of lung tissue by asbestos fibers.
Symptoms include: shortness of breath, chronic cough, chest pain, difficulty breathing, and difficulty with physical exertion.
Pleural Mesothelioma, which is a malignant cancer of the lungs or their outer lining.
Symptoms include: shortness of breath, chronic cough, wheezing, chest pain and tightness, fever, weight loss, and fatigue. Pleural effusion, which is the accumulation of excess fluid in the space between the lungs and the chest wall or diaphragm, is a common development of pleural mesothelioma.
The common abdomen-related illness caused by asbestos exposure is:
Peritoneal Mesothelioma, which is a malignant cancer of the abdomen lining.
Symptoms include: loss of appetite, weight loss, abdominal swelling, abdominal distension, abdominal hernias, and fatigue.
Symptoms for any of these illnesses can lie dormant for ten to forty or even fifty years from the time of exposure. Given this long latency period, there are many people who have been exposed to asbestos decades ago – before we knew the risks and government regulated to better protect people from exposure – who might only be falling ill now (or soon).
What should I do if I’ve been exposed to asbestos?
There’s no way to prevent an asbestos-related illness from developing once you’ve been exposed. But there are precautions you should take to catch symptoms early and to set yourself up for a successful fight against any illness if it flares up.
Once you’ve been exposed, you’ll need to be vigilant for the rest of your life.
I’ve been exposed to asbestos, but I don’t show any symptoms.
Attend regular checkups, and get regular flu shots and pneumo- vaccines.
Talk with your primary care doctor about your exposure, and get their professional opinion about whether you’re showing symptoms and what you can do to guard against any impending illness.
There are straightforward, relatively inexpensive, and radiation-free tests that you can take routinely to keep abreast of your lung health. Does your doctor recommend such pulmonary function monitoring?
If you find yourself living in fear of becoming sick from asbestos exposure decades from now, seek help from a counselor, who can help you put your risk in perspective. You need to be watching for symptoms, for sure. But unrelenting fretting won’t do you any good.
If you smoke, quit. Seriously, get the help you need to quit. Your lungs need all the help they can get, and smoking only makes them weak and piles on the risk of lung cancer. It can quicken the onset of illness caused by asbestos.
I’ve been exposed to asbestos, and I do show symptoms.
Get in touch with your doctor immediately and, with their guidance, make an appointment for an asbestos-related disease specialist or thoracic oncologist. The specialist or thoracic oncologist will help you determine if your symptoms are asbestos-related, or if they’re presenting as part of some more common illness.
The earlier you catch these symptoms and act, the better for your longevity and quality of life.
What should I do if my house contains asbestos?
Asbestos isn’t dangerous when it’s in prime condition; it’s when it becomes loose and airborne that it becomes toxic.
If you know or suspect that your home is made from materials containing asbestos, you need to monitor the construction materials regularly for wear and damage.
Because this wear and damage disrupts the asbestos-containing materials and launches asbestos into the air. Look for disintegrating pipes, insulation, walls, floors, and cracks or dusty areas that seem to be breaking down.
Especially if you see areas of concern, bring in an expert to test your home for asbestos. You want to leave the testing to someone who knows how to handle asbestos safely, and who won’t create or exacerbate the problem.
Turn off any systems that might circulate asbestos throughout the air, like air conditioning, and vacate your home while the testing is underway and you’re awaiting the laboratory results.
Never begin any maintenance, remodeling, or new construction until you’re sure that the work won’t disturb any asbestos. Again, get a professional opinion here, and don’t rely on your own knowledge or internet research.
What if you think the area is secure and it’s not? Once you begin the project and dislodge the asbestos you’re putting yourself and anyone else in the area at great health risk.
Hire for asbestos repair and/or asbestos removal.
If the test comes back positive, you need to decide if you want to repair or remove the asbestos.
In either case, hire a professional service to perform asbestos repair or asbestos removal.
It might be strange to think of repairing instead of removing, but asbestos removal can disturb the asbestos further. So especially when the materials aren’t that damaged, sealing the carcinogens in place can be the better option.
After repair by encapsulation or encasement, you should stay mindful by looking for any returned or further damage and avoiding the areas that contain asbestos as much as possible.
Don’t spend lots of time in your basement if you know there’s asbestos lurking behind the walls. Don’t sand, saw, or scrape the asbestos-containing materials or clean them with anything abrasive even after they’ve been sealed.
As often as is safe, asbestos should be removed entirely, since removal is the only permanent solution to the problem. Asbestos removal is more dangerous and costly than repair, so, as always, leave this to the most-skilled. Your health and the health of others you care about depends on it.
Make sure your contractor disposes of all asbestos-containing materials and tests the air for clarity when the removal is done, and before you pay for the job.
We’re here to help with asbestos removal.
We want to ensure that your home is safe from concerns that could deteriorate your property and health.
If you think you’ve got an asbestos problem, get in touch. We’re available 24/7 for your asbestos removal needs, and we promise we’ll give you back a home free from harmful asbestos when we’re through.
We’re the hero response you’ve been looking for.