Asbestos Exposure: How Safe Are You? How Safe Are Your Children?

Image of a 1950s public school building. This type of building could have used asbestos during construction.Asbestos was a popular construction material during the 20th century because of its low cost and heat and chemical resistant properties. As a result, its use became mainstream, especially in the commercial industry. Many public buildings were built using materials containing asbestos. When people started developing major health issues due to exposure to this material, many countries banned its use. However, many buildings already had this threat within their walls. Many people continue to be exposed to it unknowingly. Its effect on health can be significant. It is important to know if tbuildings where you or your children spend large amounts of time contain asbestos. You or your family may have been exposed to asbestos unsuspectingly.

The health of our children should given special attention. Similar to the workplace, asbestos-containing materials can also occur within public schools, in many places we may not think about. Some potential problematic areas include worn sound paper materials within our walls and crumbling floor or roofing tiles, and older heating units (if your child’s school was built in the 1970’s or earlier). It’s important to conduct a proper visual examination of our children’s schools to determine potential risky areas. It would also be an excellent idea to warn our children of these areas, and talk to school staff and personnel about the areas of concern that our children face on a daily basis.

Asbestos Building Materials

Asbestos use became widespread even in the face of medical and scientific evidence that deemed it unsafe. The first reported case of asbestosis became known in the early 1900’s. However, a ban on asbestos contaminated products was not issued until the late 1900’s. During this time, asbestos use became extensive. Its use was found in flooring, car parts, cement, and even textiles. Because of its flexibility and durability, it became one of the prime materials for construction. Almost everything in offices, stores, and workplaces contained some form of asbestos.

Current Threat of Asbestos

Most workers were unaware of the presence of asbestos in their area of work. Unfortunately, many work spaces still contain asbestos. The risk of exposure to asbestos fibers is still a very real threat. Although there are regulations that require building owners and managers to disclose asbestos related information, fear of demolition or cost of repairs can sometimes deter building owners from being fully transparent. You can find out if your current building is up to code.  It is important that employees take the lead and ask questions to find out if they are being exposed to this dangerous material. If your workplace was built before the 1980’s ban on asbestos, it is quite likely that there is still asbestos in the building. Researching the buildings we work in is the first step to ensuring our safety at work. Knowing if it is being properly contained is essential to the health of all employees. You have the right to know if you’re health is being compromised.

Health Consequences of Asbestos Exposure

The health consequences of exposure to asbestos can be significant. Serious lung damage can occur. Asbestos has also been proven to cause lung cancer and mesothelioma. Common symptoms of exposure to asbestos containing materials includes inflammatory conditions of the lungs known as asbestosis. This can cause shortness of breath and lung scarring that can make it tough to breathe. More serious health conditions include other types of lung damage (such as pleural effusions and changes to the lung membranes), cancer and mesothelioma. Some studies have also linked asbestos to different types of cancer, such as cancers of the throat, GI tract, kidney, bladder, gallbladder, voice box, among others. These associations have not been fully proven, but have also not been fully dismissed.

Don’t let asbestos exposure take you by surprise. The consequences can be deadly. You have the right as an employee to be guaranteed a safe working environment. It may take a bit of research to find out if you are safe in your workplace. However, when it comes to your health, there should be no compromise.

Are you safe in your workplace? How do you really know? Leave your comments bel

Donna Fitzgerald

Donna Fitzgerald is an active mother of two teenage daughters, and caregiver for her mother. Donna advocates for safe behaviors and enjoys blogging about various health topics, and sharing information with her readers.

Note: This Perspectives Blog post is written by a guest blogger of DrGreene.com. The opinions expressed on this post do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Dr. Greene or DrGreene.com, and as such we are not responsible for the accuracy of the information supplied. View the license for this post.

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