Despite the fact that we now know all about the deadly perils of exposure to asbestos, it is still prevalent in some areas of the world and in certain industries.
As anyone who has been unfortunate enough to be diagnosed with asbestosis will confirm, crucial advice on how to try and stay safe when working with asbestos should always be heeded if you want to avoid potentially deadly exposure.
If you thought that asbestos was a material that is firmly entrenched in the past, you will no doubt be shocked to discover that the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that some 125 million people around the globe are annually exposed to asbestos in the workplace.
There are still about 100,000 workers dying from asbestosis and related diseases every 12 months, so worldwide exposure is still very much an issue.
The health concerns surrounding exposure to asbestos have prompted over 50 countries to restrict or totally ban the use of asbestos since the 1970’s but despite this, the popularity of asbestos is actually on the increase in some developing nations where mass-produced building materials are highly sought after to meet demand.
Asbestos might be a cost-effective building material but it comes at a deadly price and the WHO is still trying to convince these countries that still use it that the health risks make it too deadly to work with on such a scale.
According to this infographic, the CDC says there is a naturally occurring level of asbestos in the air around us: about 0.00001 to 0.0001 fibers per milliliter. Understanding the measurement is critical, since asbestos tends to break up into fibers so tiny they can’t even be seen by the naked eye
Any worker who has been exposed to asbestos over a number of years is definitely at risk of developing mesothelioma.
The major problem with exposure to asbestos is that it manifests itself in your body over a period of many years and the prolonged effect of asbestos on the lung may well result in a diagnosis of mesothelioma at some point much later in your life.
Asbestos was widely used throughout many different industries for many years and even though its use has been restricted in many countries, its legacy is still being felt and will continue to be when you consider that it is still being used in some industries and certain countries who have not acted on the health evidence provided.
Workers in the past were simply not aware of the health dangers they were exposing themselves to when handling asbestos, but there is now plenty of useful handling advice available relating to this toxic substance.
Protective workwear should be provided by employers for anyone who is going to be handling or faces exposure to asbestos.
Asbestos is a known carcinogen but when it remains in good condition and is not being moved or removed, it does not actually pose a substantial risk to health.
This scenario changes dramatically if asbestos fibres become airborne and within the vicinity of anyone who could inhale them and risk these fibres becoming embedded in their chest. It is only years later that the true extent of this dangerous exposure becomes known, when it is potentially too late.
Asbestos is still very much part of our world in general and therefore great care needs to be taken when handling the material and there is also a strong requirement to be vigilant at all times when there is a danger of potential exposure.
Bernard Teel works in environmental health and is well-positioned to talk about subjects like asbestos exposure. He likes to share his observations and suggestions online and writes for a number of online resources.