Asbestos is a very common, naturally occurring mineral that was used extensively in construction materials for decades. Asbestos comes in a variety of colours and types. Each type of asbestos affects people a little differently, but all of them are hazardous and exposure often leads to fatal diseases.
Legislation was introduced in 1978 to ban asbestos from building materials. However, many homes built prior to 1990 contain some asbestos, and the older your home is the higher the chance that asbestos containing materials like vermiculite could be present, and now in British Columbia it is legislated that all potential materials that may contain asbestos be tested first before removal. Because asbestos is so dangerous, it must only be removed by a team of highly trained and certified experts. Asbestos is fibrous, almost fluffy, in texture and can become airborne very easily.
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While once considered one of Canada’s most valuable and profitable resources, the past century has uncovered the dangers of using asbestos in our everyday materials. As a cheap and versatile mineral, asbestos found its way into products that people surrounded themselves with everyday.
Concerns regarding cancer in asbestos mine workers first arose in the 1920s-30s and were followed by many studies linked asbestos to increased risks of cancer. However, the economic benefits of the mineral kept it in regular industrial and construction use for many decades afterwards, and the last asbestos mine in Canada was not closed until 2012.
The danger of asbestos exposure is twofold. Firstly, illness resulting from asbestos exposure takes a long time to manifest; it can be many years before you know that anything is wrong. The second issue arises in the continuing prevalence of asbestos around us. In Canada, asbestos was used in construction until the 1990s, in insulation, plaster, floor and ceiling tiles, house siding, stucco, drywall, popcorn textures, and more. As a consequence, many buildings constructed before then continue to contain asbestos.
As a potent carcinogen and medical hazard, exposure to asbestos fibres in the air can result in serious illness. When inhaled, the fibres become trapped in the lungs. The most well-known illness associated with asbestos is mesothelioma, an aggressive cancer with no current cure and a low survival rate that attacks the lining of the lungs, as well as the abdomen and the heart. Symptoms of mesothelioma typically appear decades after first exposure.
Also associated with asbestos exposure is asbestosis, a chronic inflammatory disease that scars lung tissue and increases the risk of not only mesothelioma, but lung cancer as well. Asbestos exposure is also linked to various other cancers, as well as pleural thickening, wherein the lining of the lung thickens and causes shortness of breath and discomfort.
The dangers of asbestos should never be underestimated. While prolonged exposure increases the risks of mesothelioma and lung cancer, just a one time encounter can scar your lung tissues. If you are worried that you are at risk for asbestos exposure, make sure you contact the experts at Elemental Asbestos & Mold Removal to see what can be done to keep you and those closest to you safe.