Asbestos was once a popular building material that is now avoided at all costs. Asbestos is a high risk material that has been linked to health issues and has been banned in many countries. While Canada is set to ban asbestos and asbestos-containing products by 2018, it is still found in many older homes and Canadians continue to experience the long-term impacts of decades of heavy asbestos use.
While finding asbestos in your home can be alarming, there are steps you can take to properly deal with the situation. Anna Suarez from the Mesothelioma and Asbestos Awareness Center is here to further explain the impact asbestos can have on our health and our homes.
When it comes to personal health, many of us immediately think of proper nutrition and exercise. Lung health is generally left out of the conversation, or only considered within the context of smoking and tobacco use. In reality, our health faces a variety of environmental hazards daily, even in the buildings where we work and live. It’s easy to recognize a threat to our health if we’re able to identify it, but when it comes to air quality, pollutants are often not observable with the naked eye. This can be a cause for concern because the quality of the air we breathe can directly impact our lung health and makes awareness around this issue all the more important.
One material in particular that was widely used in the building and manufacturing industries is asbestos. Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral and its use can be traced all the way back to ancient Greece. In the 20th century, asbestos was heavily used as an insulator in construction materials and household products. It was an attractive substance to use in the building industry because of its durability and fire-proof tendencies.
Unfortunately, it is precisely these properties that also make asbestos dangerous for the human body. It’s important to note that there is little risk if the asbestos containing material or product isn’t damaged. However, when disturbed asbestos fibers can break up into microscopic particles, become airborne, and be inhaled. Because our bodies are unable to break down the fibers, they become lodged in the tissue and causes scarring. This can lead to diseases such as asbestosis, lung cancer, and a particularly aggressive cancer called mesothelioma.
If we know so much about asbestos and already recognize it as a dangerous carcinogen, why is this still an issue today? Around the 1920s, the health concerns associated with asbestos began to gain attention, but it wasn’t until the passage of the Clean Air Act in 1970 that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was able to begin regulating this material. Throughout the next two decades the EPA introduced laws and regulations targeting asbestos use.
The EPA even attempted a ban in 1989, but only a few years later it was overturned in the courts. Today many think of asbestos as a resolved issue and are unaware that asbestos is not entirely banned in Canada and the United States and its use is actually still allowed in certain products. However, according to the CDC, modern day exposure primarily occurs through interaction with asbestos that was installed prior to federal regulations taking effect. This becomes especially worrisome during maintenance or remodeling of older buildings that contain asbestos. Additionally because many people are unaware of what asbestos is and where it can be found, they can be exposed without realizing it.
- Educate yourself and stay up-to-date. Reading this post is a great start, and if you’re looking for more information on asbestos and its dangers, click here.
- Get a home inspection. This is especially important before beginning any DIY renovation projects if your home was built before 1980. The key with asbestos is to make sure that it isn’t disturbed, but that’s not possible if you don’t know where it is.
- Have the asbestos removed. If you know that your home contains asbestos, never attempt removal on your own. Always utilize a trained professional that knows how to properly remove the toxin and dispose of it safely.
Asbestos is a major health concern and that makes awareness important to prevent any type of future illness. Take the proper steps to protect yourself and your loved ones. Until it’s finally banned, we all need to be more aware to prevent exposure.