The Dangers of Asbestos
Asbestos is an inextinguishable set of six naturally occurring silicate mineral which appears in three different colors on which their types are also based. Because of its resistant to fire and its insulation properties, it has gain usage popularity since the 1900’s. It is considered very helpful in building constructions and is used in many products until it has been decided to be banned by the court in 1989 due to its harmful effects to health.
Various buildings have been built and homes completed through the use of asbestos. Most of the parts such as walls, ceiling, and floors in a building have asbestos contents on them and the things a hostess may have at home like rubber handles of pots; home insulators also contain the same things. Most of the things that surround us may be built from asbestos containing materials (ACM). Most of them have also made life a luxury of living. However, an asbestos testing through the asbestos test kitswould show how much asbestos exposure an individual is at risk of and what materials are furtively dispersing asbestos fibers in the air in his own home, workplace, and in the community.
In truth no one can be safe from asbestos exposure. The danger lies in the state of the asbestos. When it is accidentally or intentionally disturbed and broken down into smaller pieces, the tiny asbestos fibers enter the body through breathing. They can accumulate into the lungs for a longer period of time. Fifteen to twenty years of asbestos may then lead one to various asbestos-exposure diseases like mesothelioma, asbestosis, and lung cancer.
The People at Risk
People who work with asbestos-containing materials account the highest level of asbestos exposure. These people may be working in certain jobs like mining, factory work, refineries, steel mills, auto production, ship building, and large construction work. Drywall removers, firefighters, plumbers, boilermakers, and automobile workers who repair hand brakes also have no escape to asbestos exposure. People exposed on naval ships and military bases are also considered at risk for asbestos danger. They include aircraft carriers, battleships, submarines, warships and others. They are also the ones who are at high risk for illnesses related with asbestos. Families of these workers are also at risk for second hand asbestos exposure through the worn out clothes of a member that are not immediately washed with proper precautions. Asbestos fibers that have clung to the cottony texture of cloth can still escape to the air and inhaled by the family.
The asbestos fibers that accumulate the lungs can greatly affect the health of a person. As it stay longer in the person’s body, it actually leads to two major types of cancer. The two principal types of cancer are the following:
Mesothelioma is a malignant type of cancer affecting the pleural and peritoneal lining. It originated from inhalation and ingestion of asbestos fibers which cause inflammation of internal tissues and hinder normal organ functions. Although mesothelioma has a long latency period given 30 to 40 years of asbestos exposure, a person diagnosed to suffer from it usually die within one to two years from the diagnosis. Depending on the affected or damaged part of the body, mesothelioma is recognized in three types:
- Pleural mesothelioma – This type of mesothelioma occurs in the lining of the lungs called pleura. This is the most common type of cancer accounting to roughly 70% of people who are exposed to asbestos.
- Peritoneal mesothelioma – This type of mesothelioma occurs in the lining of the abdominal cavity, known as the peritoneum. This thin membrane is responsible for the contraction and expansion of body structures to regulate normal bodily functions by acting as a lubricant. According to records, this type of cancer is rare and affects less than 500 people in the United States every year.
- Pericardial mesothelioma- The last type of mesothelioma originates in the pericardium, a membrane that basically lines the heart. This disease is developed as asbestos fibers are absorbed and carried through the bloodstream then to the heart. As years pass by, the asbestos presence in the blood will cause the growth of tumors in the pericardium. In records there have been fewer than 200 people who suffer from pericardial mesothelioma in the United States.
The symptoms of mesothelioma do not show up immediately. It takes years of asbestos exposure before a person is able to feel it; however, those who have a history of asbestos exposure may notice it even sooner than expected. Upon noticing the following symptoms, it is best to consult a doctor immediately to be given proper treatment.
- Chest pains
- Difficulty in breathing
- Stomach and abdominal ache
- Growth of tumor in the peritoneum, pleura, or in the pericardium
- Abdominal enlargement and tenderness
- Loss of appetite which results to weight loss, abdominal distention, pelvic mass and abdominal hernias
Mesothelioma is treated in three different accepted procedures. These include surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. Depending on the physician, the patient may receive a combination of these treatments.
- Surgery – Surgery is not a standard procedure; however, the patient may undergo different types of surgery only to relieve the symptoms of the disease. In this sense, the procedure is palliative and preventive, and does not cure the tumor at all, but is a good option for patients whose tumors have greatly spread and have undergone previous surgery.
- Chemotherapy- Chemotherapy treats the disease by killing the cells that contains chemicals or cancer and prevent them from dividing and spreading out. Although this kind of treatment has been widely used for cancer patients, this also brings out several side effects. Since the drug induced by chemotherapy is not so specific, the treatment also kills healthy cells which lead to nausea and vomiting, loss of appetite as well as hair loss.
- Radiation- Radiation treatment is used to remove the cancerous tissues especially if the patient has already undergone a surgery for better outcome. The cancer patient may either undergo two different types of radiation treatment, external beam radiation and brachytherapy. The first involves inducing a beam of radiation to the affected part of the body while the second one involves, providing radiation shot directly to the cancerous tumor.
Lung cancer is manifested by a malignant tumor which settles in the bronchi. As this tumor grows, it blocks the air that passes through the bronchi; hence, invading and obstructing air passages. Like mesothelioma it also has a long latency period of given 20 years of asbestos exposure before a person can feel its signs and symptoms.
The symptoms of lung cancer are the following:
- Chronic cough
- Shortness of breath especially when doing some activities
- Muscle pains especially in the shoulder, arms, and on the back part of the body
- Chest pains
- Repetitive bronchitis and pneumonia
- decreased appetite
- Wheezing or hoarseness as a sign f inflammation in the lungs
There is a variety of treatments for lung cancer, and each technique has its own set of effects to a patient. Today, a person who is suffering from lung cancer may undergo photodynamic therapy, electrocautery, cryosurgery, laser surgery, and internal radiation.
- Electrocautery – This method involves destroying the tissues containing cancer through heat conduction from a metal probe that is heated by electric current. This helps stop the bleeding from small vessels that have been infected by cancer.
- Cryosurgery –Also known as cryosurgery, cryoablation or targeted cryoablation therapy is the opposite of electrocautery. This treatment is minimally invasive that basically induces cold treatment to freeze and kill the cancer cells.
- Laser surgery> – The surgery for the lungs is known as thoracotomy. This is used to remove the tumor when the cancer only resides in one lung and in nearby lymph nodes. Laser surgery is a type of surgery involves using high-intensity laser light to shrink and destroy tumors so as to prevent them from spreading further.
Asbestos exposure also leads to a non-malignant lung disease known as asbestosis. Asbestosis is the scarring of the lung tissue which causes contraction and expansion of the lungs difficult to achieve as it impair its elastic capacity. This situation cause inadequate flow of oxygen in the body which then leads the person to suffer from difficulty of breathing. It may take u 15 to 30 years of asbestos exposure before a person feels its signs and symptoms.
The symptoms of asbestosis are as follows:
- Difficulty in breathing which occurs during exertion
- Persistent dry cough
- Irregular chest pains
- Clubbing or finger deformity wherein fingers spread out and become rounder
- Loss of appetite
- Noticeable dry and crackling sound in the lungs while inhaling
There is no known cure for asbestosis. Although it is non-malignant type of disease, the treatment is provided only to reduce the symptoms of asbestosis. Some may even come as self initiative. The following are ways to treat asbestosis:
- Stop smoking – Smokers who are exposed to asbestos are at higher risk for this disease. Upon the diagnosis of asbestos, medical doctors suggest to quit smoking immediately as this would only worsen breathlessness and chest pains.
- Vaccination – Vaccination against pneumonia and pneumococcus bacterium are given to asbestosis patients to prevent further infection with lungs. This may involve receiving at least one shot of pneumococcus vaccine per year to secure the patient from the possibility of developing lung cancer.
- Long-term oxygen therapy- The asbestosis patient may be given with oxygen therapy through a machine known as oxygen concentrator in order to add the shortened supply of oxygen in the blood. The oxygen concentrator is simply plug into an outlet in the patient’s room which then purifies the air and enriches its supply in the space.
Anyone can be exposed to asbestos anywhere. It may be in the construction site, office, streets, or maybe at home. To answer the doubts whether or not a certain thing has asbestos content, the asbestos test kits will help confirm its presence in as little as one percent. The asbestos tests kits is one of the easiest and safest tool in market today that test for asbestos contents in some materials. Being aware of the dangerous chemicals skulking just around the corner will help individuals know when and what to do to avoid them.
There are a variety of ways to keep oneself free from asbestos exposure as advised by EPA. In fact, there are also a number of regulations that cover handling and working with asbestos in relation to keeping oneself safe from it. Nevertheless, the following are the dos and don’ts upon finding out the presence of asbestos.
- Follow regulations on disposing and removing asbestos
- Secure asbestos waste by doubling the package before sending them out to asbestos dump site
- Use suitable protective equipments in cleaning out asbestos; otherwise, consult and hire an asbestos remover
- Always wet asbestos containing materials with water mixed with a little detergent to keep them from spreading in the air
- Do not disturb the asbestos to prevent asbestos fibers from spreading out as for non-friable asbestos
- Avoid using dry brush, cutting, or sawing parts of asbestos containing materials
- Avoid eating in areas that contain asbestos composites
- Avoid smoking while working in areas with high concentration of asbestos
- Do not reuse materials and clothing that have already been used while working with asbestos