Asbestos

QUESTION:
Why is asbestos bad for a person?
ANSWER:
Asbestos is a generic term for a group of natural occurring minerals that have been mined and used in construction, industry, and the military since the 1880’s. The big advantage to using asbestos is its resistance to heat and combustion. Asbestos has superb insulating and sound-proofing properties in addition to being quite cheap.
The biggest producers of asbestos are Russia, China, Brazil, and Canada. Asbestos is still used in many developing countries.
Asbestos has been widely used in building materials and pipe insulation, brake linings, floor tile, shingles, fireman’s clothing, mats, fiber cement, and fire-resistant bricks.
There are different types of asbestos, the most common being white asbestos (Chrysotile) found in cement products, insulation, and auto and truck brake linings. White asbestos is also resistant to salt water, hence its popularity in ship construction.
Asbestos fibers are extremely small, about one-fifth the diameter of a human hair. The fibers can easily become airborne and inhaled into the lungs, where they remain permanently.
The medical damage can be severe. Asbestosis is scarring of the lungs and restricts one’s ability to inhale. Breathing becomes more and more difficult, until the lungs become useless. Mesothelioma is cancer of the lung lining. This is the disease we hear about on television ads.
People who get asbestosis and mesothelioma generally have been exposed to the material for long periods of time and high concentrations. Shipbuilders and certain factory workers fall into this category. The symptoms may not appear until 20 to 30 years after the first exposures. No safe limit has ever been determined. The longer the period of exposure, the greater the risk.
Thousands of tons of asbestos were use in WWII ships to wrap pipes, line boilers, and cover engines. There were 4.3 million shipyard workers in the United States in World War II. Estimates are that for every thousand workers, about 14 died of mesothelioma. An unknown number died from asbestosis.
Not only can asbestos exposure cause a wide variety of cancers, but also plaques, loss of lung function, heart enlargement, and breathlessness. The combination of smoking and exposure to asbestos greatly increases the risk of developing lung cancer.
Friability is a word you’ll hear when asbestos removal is being discussed. Friability is the ability of a solid material to be reduced to smaller pieces with very little effort. Asbestos may be friable if small particle are easily dislodged, enabling them to become small enough to become airborne, and to be inhaled into the lungs.
Most all products manufactured today do not contain asbestos. Asbestos was phased out of building products the1970’s an 1980’s. Fiberglass, mineral wool, and glass wool have replaced asbestos for insulation. Some product incorporate organic fibers and wood fibers. Stone fibers are used in gaskets and friction materials. Aramid is a synthetic product widely used in brake linings and is similar to Nomex, which is used in bulletproof vests.

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