Asbestos: What Is Asbestos & How It Becomes the Cause for Cancer?
Asbestos: What Is Asbestos & How It Becomes the Cause for Cancer? Today, it's very important to know about asbestos and its related hazards. Those who have been exposed with asbestos in the past only know about its dangerous manifestations.
But those who're safe but their work priorities are such that they have to do their job in the asbestos prone area also needs to know about this naturally occurring mineral.
What is Asbestos?
To be precise, asbestos happens to be a group of 6 naturally occurring minerals. These minerals are further composed of soft and flexible fibers that have a tendency to get exposed in the environment when handled in wrong manner. Another property of these asbestos fibers is that they are heat resistant.
Although, this naturally occurring mineral is not allowed to use due to its dangerous manifestations, but it's still being used in loads of US consumer products. The government is allowing the use of asbestos only if it has the presence of less than 1 percent of the product.
The reason why asbestos is dangerous is because of the fact that the exposure of asbestos can cause cancer and other related disorders like asbestosis and mesothelioma.
As we just mentioned that asbestos fibers are quite soft and flexible, they are also resistant to electricity, heat and corrosion.
Due to these properties, this naturally occurring mineral is extensively used in hundreds of products in the US. Although, all the above qualities of asbestos are useful to some extent, they are also responsible to make asbestos exposure highly toxic, especially when these fibers are released in the environment.
Types of Asbestos
As per the data collected by the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act, six different types of asbestos are found naturally occurring in the environment. All of them generally fall under two categories including Amphibole and serpentine.
Please note that Amphibole asbestos comprises jagged and straight shaped fibers. They are of 5 types:
Serpentine asbestos are generally loaded with curly types of fibers. Please note that this type of asbestos falls only under one category which is Chrysotile. It's also sometimes known as white asbestos.
Where Does Asbestos Come From?
There was a time when asbestos was mined throughout North America. Pertaining to the dangerous use of the mineral, the country soon placed restrictions to use this naturally occurring mineral. Although, it mainly comes across the world but the main exporters are Kazakhstan, Russia and China.
Most often, asbestos is found in huge deposits in some of the most common minerals like vermiculite and talc. Out of this Chrysotile asbestos is generally traced within serpentine rock.
In the commercial use, we find asbestos presence up to 5-6%, there are a few deposits like Coalinga deposit (US) where the asbestos concentration goes up to 50% or more.
As per the scientific studies and analysis done related to asbestos exposure, there are some diseases linked with it. The most common type of disorder that arises due to the asbestos exposure is a type of cancer known as mesothelioma. Not only that, the naturally occurring mineral is also responsible to cause laryngeal cancer, ovarian cancer and asbestos-related lung cancer.
There are some other types of asbestos related disorders that include Pleuritis, Pleural effusions, Asbestosis, Diffuse pleural thickening, Pleural plaques and Asbestosis.
What Are the Risks Involved in Asbestos Exposure?
In general, there is no fixed and safe amount of asbestos exposure which is known to be safe. But it can pose a danger when the person gets exposed to it in certain amounts on a regular basis and over a period of time.
The worst thing with asbestos is that it gets accumulated in lungs after every single exposure. And there is no way the entire process can be reversed.
The reason is that asbestos borne fibers are quickly inhaled once they become mixed in the environment. Hence it becomes quite necessary not to disturb asbestos containing products in an unprofessional manner.
Most of the times, only those people fall prey to the mineral who live near to them. Another amazing fact related to this is that most of the asbestos related cases are patients who are above the age of 60 years. It's mainly because asbestos related disorders generally have a long latency period as it takes decades to develop.
What Are Asbestos Related Occupations?
As per the findings in this regard, over 26 million workers were exposed to the mineral from 1940-1979.
Although, a number of regulations from the government have reduced the risks of exposure at workplace, but it always pose a certain degree of risks in a number of occupations.
Asbestos Manufacturing High-Risk Occupations
Some of the high risk occupations include:
· Electricity Generation
· Heavy Industry
· Military Service
The first time when it was found in the workers of military and Civilian mechanics who were responsible to repair, install and maintain the aircraft components. In that connection, one thing that appears which is often revealed.
Hundreds of Air Force veterans from the US during 1930s-1980s were found affected with asbestos as a number of aircraft components contained the dreaded mineral at that time.
As per a study conducted in this regard, it was found that there happens to be a high risk of asbestos exposure among workers involved in repair and maintenance work of aircrafts. Right after that so many cases of sarcomatoid mesothelioma started coming to the surface in workers involved in the repair works on aircrafts. Some of them started growing asbestosis, pleural mesothelioma and asbestosis after getting exposed to asbestos.
As you know, it takes decades to appear symptoms due to the exposure of the mineral. Sometimes, it takes 15-60 years to develop symptoms of the disease. Some of the symptoms include wheezing, chest pain and shortness of breath. In fact, all of them are the most common symptoms.
In any case, the best remedy to stay away from the ill effects of asbestos and related minerals is to gain knowledge about how to dump them. Also, those who are already affected due to the conditions developed due to the asbestos exposure need to take appropriate action against companies or sources from where they carried the disease.
Even today, the most common cause of asbestos exposure is demolition or renovation work of an old building having some concentration of asbestos or related products in them.
In the year 2019, the US Environmental Protection Agency rule came forth that stated that all manufactures need to take proper approval from the government before selling any kind of discontinued uses of asbestos. Now, take a look at some of the discontinued asbestos products:
· Asbestos roofing felt
· Asbestos reinforced plastics
· Vinyl asbestos tiles
· Asbestos adhesives, sealants and coatings
· Asbestos cement