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Dangers of Asbestos

Dangers of Asbestos
Dangers of Asbestos
Asbestos refers to naturally occurring minerals that contain silicate compounds, which feature both silicon and oxygen. Usually, asbestos appears as a whitish, fibrous material that can exhibit either a silky or rough texture. These fibers are resistant to heat, fire, and corrosive chemicals, do not conduct electricity, and are light and affordable1. Consequently, asbestos is used in a number of occupations for a variety of products, like electrical and building insulation, floor tiles, building materials, and vehicle brakes and clutches2. Certain industries, such as mining, construction, ship repair, and automotive repair, are especially reliant on asbestos materials. For instance, the construction industry uses asbestos to strengthen cement and plastics, and to related use in insulation, roofing, fireproofing, and sound absorption. Similarly, the shipbuilding industry uses asbestos to insulate boilers, steam pipes, and hot water pipes. Even the automotive industry uses asbestos in vehicle brake shoes and clutch pads3.
Danger Asbestos Sign
Create a safe environment by informing individuals of nearby asbestos
Large-scale asbestos use emerged with the Industrial Revolution in the late 19th century, and reached its peak in the mid-1970s. The dangers of asbestos weren’t known until the first documented death from asbestos in 1906. Afterwards, researchers began to notice that asbestos miners were suffering from lung problems and dying at a suspiciously early age. It wasn’t until 1934 that scientists in the UK finally diagnosed the cause as asbestos inhalation4.
Asbestos releases tiny fibers that can get trapped in the lungs5 and damage the alveoli, air sacs deep in the lungs. Over time, a buildup of scar-like tissue and inflammation can occur, resulting in a loss of lung function and often death. Coined "asbestosis," this condition can cause serious lung cancers, like mesothelioma - a fatal tumor that grows in the lung’s lining6. In fact, the increased prevalence of mesothelioma has opened up a new field of litigation, with firms catering specifically to individuals exposed to asbestos and affected by the once-rare form of cancer. Unfortunately, the disease is exacerbated since symptoms like wheezing, shortness of breath, persistent cough, chest pains, and anemia may not appear for many years (12- 20 years) after initial exposure7.
Since the 1970s, in response to the dangers of asbestos, a number of countries have either regulated asbestos production or exposure, or banned it outright. For example, the European Union has banned all uses of asbestos, including the extracting, manufacturing, and processing of asbestos products. The United States, meanwhile, treats asbestos with a combination of heavy regulations and bans. It is also estimated, according to the Department of Labor, that 1.3 million employees in construction and general industry face significant asbestos exposure on the job.
Notice: Asbestos-Free Product
Commercial industries rushed to inform consumers that their products were asbestos-free
Asbestos has been classified as a carcinogen by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Environmental Protection Agency, and The International Agency for Research on Cancer8. Asbestos is also defined in both the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) of 1979 and the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA) of 19869. Both of these federal regulatory statutes concentrate primarily on asbestos in schools: AHERA in particular requires school systems to inspect buildings for the presence of damaged asbestos and to incorporate safety measures to remove or reduce it significantly. Likewise, the National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP) initiative, initially part of the Clean Air Act of 1970, has been amended numerous times to strengthen asbestos installation and removal regulations10. , and to reduce the amount of asbestos fibers released into the air. In 1989, the EPA banned all new uses of asbestos, though uses for it that were developed before 1989 are still allowed11.
OSHA established strict workplace regulations regarding asbestos exposure, mainly in construction work, shipyards, and general industry. These standards reduce health risks for employees by requiring their employers to provide awareness programs, constantly monitor asbestos levels, and create regulated areas if need be. Furthermore, employers must provide employees with protective clothing, exposure monitoring, hygiene facilities, and medical exams. Employers must also post warning signs near asbestos materials. OSHA sets a maximum airborne asbestos concentration in the workplace to minimize exposure: 0.2 fibers per cubic centimeter of air (averaged over an eight-hour work shift)12. In a similar vein, the Mine Safety and Health Administration enforces proper workplace practices and safety procedures, including the installation of properly functioning ventilation, exhaust vents, and respirators. These heavy regulations, combined with public fear over asbestos health hazards, have resulted in a significant decline in domestic consumption of asbestos, from 803,000 metric tons in 1973 to 2,400 metric tons in 200513.
Caution Asbestos Hazard Sign
Employers can avoid lawsuits by posting proper safety signs to educate employees
Despite the gradual phase-out of asbestos, people are still affected by asbestos that was installed before the bans and regulations. The most recent case of asbestos exposure occurred after 9/11, when rescue, recovery, and cleanup workers at Ground Zero were exposed to asbestos used in the construction of the WTC’s North Tower in 1972. When the building was demolished, asbestos particles were released into the atmosphere, harming many individuals that inhaled the deadly fibers. It is therefore especially important to be wary of handling materials prior to EPA’s 1989 ban. Ships, homes, schools, and other buildings should be checked for asbestos materials, especially older homes built before 1989. If evidence of asbestos is found, be sure to call 311 for removal.

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