Health Dangers of Asbestos
Learn About the Dangers Of Asbestos Exposure
Asbestos is a group of 6 six types of fibrous minerals. They are chrysotile, crocidolite, amosite, anthophyllite, tremolite and actinolite.
They are resistant to heat, fire, and chemicals. Asbestos containing mterial included building products, electrical insulation and fabrics. Exposure to the mineral can cause severe health problems, including cancer.
Asbestos in Australia
Australia has a long history of high asbestos use. Experts have found that from the 1950’s to the 1970’s, the country had the greatest per capita rate of asbestos use in the world. Job sites such as construction and mills used asbestos regularly.
Crocidolite or “blue” asbestos is one of the most toxic kinds of asbestos. The Wittenhoom Mine was a primary source of blue asbestos. Mining ceased in 1966.
James Hardie Industries
In the 20th century, James Hardie Industries, a building, and insulation manufacturing company distributed asbestos products and ran asbestos mines in Australia.
The company, although aware of the risks associated with asbestos, never warned the miners or plant workers of these risks. Leftover waste from the Hardie plant was recklessly circulated throughout the community. Locations included playgrounds, parks, and driveways.
At one point, the waste was used to make Hession (burlap) bags, which held fruits and vegetables. This resulted in immense harm to the workers and the community.
The Woodsreef Mine was located in Barraba, New South Wales. It closed down in the 1980’s. Approximately 25 million tons of asbestos waste remained at the site, still causing problems today.
Regulations and Bans
The Australian National Dataset for Compensation Based Statistics reports that of all the compensation claims filed by workers from 2005-2008 due to asbestos related diseases, the most came from carpenters, power plant workers, electricians, metal workers, plumbers, and telecommunication workers.
Australia did not start regulating asbestos products until the late 1970’s. Crocidolite (blue) asbestos was banned in 1967. Amosite (brown) asbestos use continued all the way into the mid-1980’s, and Chrysotile (white) asbestos was banned in 2003.
Even with these bans in place, Australians remain vulnerable to asbestos exposure from the older construction still erected that contains asbestos cement and other asbestos products.
To demolish these buildings would be very dangerous, releasing unknown amounts of asbestos into the air, as would be any sort of remodeling.
How Asbestos Affects Your Health
Asbestos exposure can cause cancerous diseases such as Mesothelioma and Lung Cancer that do not show significant symptoms for decades due to asbestos related diseases’ long latency periods. Having a hard time breathing and chest pains are two of the biggest symptoms
How Does One Become Exposed?
There are a few ways you can be exposed to asbestos. The first is occupational exposure. This, of course, is when you come in contact with asbestos while working. This is the most common.
Construction sites, shipyards, power plants, and other hazardous blue-collar jobs are the most at risk. The next is called secondary asbestos exposure.
This occurs usually within the families of asbestos workers. Fibers can attach to the clothes of workers and be carried back home every day, causing the family who touches the laundry to inhale the asbestos. Lastly, comes any indirect exposure from pollution or any naturally occurring asbestos.
Naturally occurring asbestos is found all around the world. Nearby mines and manufacturing companies can also release asbestos into the air, which leads to air and soil pollution.
Major Health Issues Caused by Asbestos
Asbestosis is a chronic lung disease that results from the inhalation of asbestos particles. It brings with it severe fibrosis and a very high risk of getting Mesothelioma.
Asbestosis occurs after prolonged exposure to these asbestos fibers. It inflicts lung tissue scarring and shortness of breath on the patient.
Symptoms for Asbestosis usually do not appear for many years after the initial subjection to the asbestos, Most people contract asbestosis on the job. Treatment for asbestosis relies solely on treating your symptoms.
Mesothelioma is a cancerous tumor of the tissue that lines your lungs, stomach, heart, and other organs. Malignant mesothelioma is the most common type.
It is an aggressive and deadly form of cancer. There are available treatments for mesothelioma, but for most people, there is no possible cure.
The most common location in the body that malignant mesothelioma attacks are the tissue that surrounds the lungs or pleura. This is called pleural mesothelioma.
A rarer form called parietal mesothelioma attacks the tissue in the abdomen. Some very rare forms target the area around your heart and around the testicles.
There is a noncancerous (benign) form of mesothelioma that develops in the chest. This Benign Mesothelioma is also known as Solitary fibrous tumor. This benign form is much, much rarer.
Pleural mesothelioma causes chest pain, shortness of breath, pain under your rib cage, painful coughing, unusual lumps of tissue under your skin on your chest, and weight loss.
Peritoneal mesothelioma involves abdominal pain and swelling, lumps of tissue in the abdomen, and weight loss. Pericardial mesothelioma, which affects the tissue around your heart, has signs and symptoms including breathing difficulty and chest pains.
Tunica vaginalis mesothelioma, which affects the tissue around the testicles, may be detectable by the swelling or a mass in a testicle. Treatment of mesothelioma can include surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy.
3. Lung Cancer
Asbestos lodged inside of lung tissue can cause lung cancer. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) found lung cancer to be the greatest risk for people who worked with asbestos. Lung cancer symptoms develop slowly so it can be difficult to diagnose early.
Most doctors say at least 10 years must pass after the time of exposure for them to confidently diagnose it as lung cancer. Prognosis depends on the type and stage of cancer.
The median survival rate for a limited stage small cell patient with chemotherapy is 16 to 22 months. Patients with late stage cancer have an average survival rate of 9-11 months, with the same treatment.
Small Cell and Nonsmall Cell Lung Cancer
Different forms of asbestos lung cancer include small cell and nonsmall cell. Non-small cell lung cancer is much less aggressive and more common, with around 50% of patients having this type.
Small cell lung cancer makes up less than 20% of lung cancer cases and it is a lot harder to treat. 6% of small cell lung cancer patients live 5 years or longer, although early treatment can prolong survival. 17% of non-small cell lung cancer patients live 5 years or longer.
How Do You Protect Yourself and Your Loved Ones?
Although asbestos is in many places in Australia and a lot of the time it may be out of your control, there are ways to protect yourself against this deadly mineral.
You should always wear a face mask and gloves in questionable places, and if you’re working in this said place, add a safety uniform to the gloves and mask.
Professional Asbestos Removal
Always use trained professional to remove the asbestos. For even better protection, Alert Technology sells warning devices that signal an alert to you when it detects asbestos close by, I wouldn’t rely on this technology by itself but it couldn’t hurt!
Asbestos Support Groups in Australia
There are numerous support groups to assist people exposed to asbestos. One of these is the Asbestos and Mesothelioma Association of Australia (AMAA). They provide assistance and guidance to people affected by asbestos.
Their goal is to raise awareness in the community and minimize health risks. Other groups include the Asbestos Diseases Foundation of Australia Inc. (ADFA), and The Asbestos Related Disease Support Society Queensland (ARDSSQ).
From all of this, you can see that asbestos is clearly a very dangerous mineral to encounter, and its effects can be deadly. Knowing this, you should take all safety precautions available to you in order to protect yourself and your family.