Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral, extremely resistant to heat. This property makes the asbestos suitable for buildings and various other human built constructions. People started using asbestos in the late 19th century, mixed with cement or woven into fabric. However, the material has some very hazardous effects on the humans' health and it was finally banned in 1989, for all future uses. The exposure to asbestos is associated with many severe lung diseases, including the lung cancer.
Exposure to asbestos
Asbestos is composed of small and thin microscopic fibers that are not visible by the naked eye. When the surface containing the asbestos is disturbed, the fibers flow freely through the air. The humans are at great risk from this kind of exposure, since they cannot see the asbestos in the air, but they can still breathe it in. However, most of the fiber is expelled but some of it remains lodged in the lungs causing scarring, inflammation and eventually diseases. Very high concentrations of asbestos or prolonged exposure to asbestos fibers will normally provoke health disorders in humans. However, the first symptoms of asbestos exposure may not show up in the first couple of decades after the initial contact. In some patients, the first symptoms appear after 30 years.
Asbestos Exposure in the Workplace
Asbestos exposure is common for people who work in the trades or do manual labor. Some of the occupations are associated with more risk of exposure than the others. For example, people working around asbestos insulation are at the highest possible risk. Jobs including working with asbestos pipe covering, block insulation, asbestos containing cement, and asbestos lagging are extremely risky.
People working on ship building or ship maintenance are also often exposed to the asbestos in the air. The asbestos is often used around boilers and steam pipes, and it can be released in the air during routine maintenance.
Asbestos is extensively used in power plants, refineries and industrial settings. It is also used in home and commercial construction for fireproofing and isolation. Plumbers and pipefitters are also at risk since the asbestos is used to laden cement pipes and for pipe coverings.
In textile industry workers are exposed to asbestos whenever they make heat resistant products. Miners can be exposed if they do not have proper breathing protection or when the ventilation is very poor. People working in car repair shops can be exposed to the asbestos used in brake pads and shoes, clutch discs, and linings.