health

We are all aware of the dangers of asbestos and its health risks; however, would you know how to recognise it if it was in your home?

It is essential you know how to identify asbestos. An estimated 5000 people die from asbestos exposure each year in the UK. That’s double the number of people who lose their lives in road traffic accidents.

If you are a property owner, it’s essential to ensure that there is no asbestos, and your legal duty is to manage it. It’s recommended that you contact qualified experts who can support you with asbestos management. However, in some cases, you may not be aware of asbestos being on your property.

In this article, we will cover how to identify and mitigate the effects of asbestos exposure. 

What is asbestos?

Asbestos is a natural mineral made of flexible fibres resistant to heat, corrosion, and electricity. Thanks to that, the material is used in many industries.

Asbestos was widely used in construction as an insulator, and can be added to paper, plastic, cement, and various other materials to make them stronger. However, asbestos exposure is highly toxic. When the particles enter your body, the fibres can become permanently trapped inside deep tissue. Over a period of time, asbestos can cause genetic damage and inflammation. The damage caused by asbestos can cause lung disease and various cancers as it is a known carcinogen. These qualities make the mineral extremely dangerous to humans.

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How can you be exposed to asbestos?

Asbestos exposure happens when microscopic asbestos particles become airborne. The toxic dust remains in the air for hours, thus making it easy to inhale. It may take 48 to 72 hours for asbestos particles to settle; however, if the dust is disturbed, it can easily become airborne again due to being very light. Many people are exposed through their jobs. The majority of exposures are from the use of asbestos in thousands of domestic, commercial and industrial products.

Another way to get exposed to asbestos is through a renovation. Many older buildings have materials mixed with asbestos. When asbestos products found in homes start to break down or are cut, drilled or disturbed in any way, the particles begin to float.

Identifying asbestos exposure

Many people are unaware of asbestos and that they might have been exposed to it. However, there are no clear signs when asbestos gets into your body. The first symptoms of asbestos exposure are related to diseases. Usually, the first signs appear in the lungs because asbestos is mainly responsible for various lung diseases. However, it can also affect other parts of your body. Some signs are problems with the stomach, colon, and throat.

Signs of asbestos exposure related to the respiratory system:

  • Dry cough
  • Chest pain or tightness
  • Crackling sound when breathing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Respiratory problems
  • Asbestosis

Signs of asbestos exposure related to the rest of the body:

  • Abdominal or pelvic pain
  • Bowel obstruction
  • Weight loss
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Loss of appetite
  • Abdominal swelling and distention

Asbestos is also responsible for cancers which attack your lungs and the rest of the body. Some of the cancers caused by it are:

  • Lung cancer
  • Laryngeal cancer
  • Ovarian cancer
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It’s believed that about 20% of people work in environments where asbestos is present. Many factors are involved in developing an asbestos-related disease such as; how long a person was exposed and the number of asbestos particles they inhaled. However, most people who get sick work with asbestos for the majority of their careers. Moreover, genetics and lifestyle choices, such as smoking, can worsen the symptoms and progression of asbestos-related diseases.

How to mitigate asbestos effects?

If you think you’ve found and been exposed to asbestos, it’s common to be concerned about its effects on your body. However, the risks from short-term asbestos exposure are low. Developing an asbestos-related disease is more likely to happen if you have breathed in particles over a prolonged time, for example, through your job. However, you should still seek advice from an environmental health officer. They will be able to tell you who to contact for removal and what steps you need to take to protect yourself. Moreover, you should seek medical advice if you have symptoms like coughing, chest pain, or shortness of breath.

The usage of asbestos is slowly reducing. Nonetheless, you can do a few things to minimise the chance of being exposed to it. You can use asbestos-free soil to cover gardens that might contain asbestos. Try to avoid buildings with visible waste and ones that are breaking down. When cleaning your house, use wet wipes and mops instead of dry ones and if you are concerned about your pets carrying the particles, wipe them with a damp cloth.

 

 

 

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