What is Asbestosis?
Asbestos was a widely used material in construction in the US before it was banned in the late 1970s. When added to other substances, it has excellent heat resistant and toughness which made it ideal for a variety of items like sidings, insulation, and floor tiles.
While US manufacturers were quick to use asbestos in construction, our scientific knowledge lacked. Therefore, it wasn’t until the late 1970s that the dangers of asbestos were uncovered, and the potentially lethal lung condition known as asbestosis was understood. In this article, we answer important questions including what is asbestosis, the potential complications, and how to stop worrying about asbestos.
Understanding Asbestosis – An Introduction
Asbestos is made of tiny fibres. These fibres are relatively harmless when untouched and undisturbed. However, if the fibres get airborne, they pose a serious health risk.
Asbestosis is a condition resulting from breathing in those fibres. If you accidentally breath in asbestos fibres, they will enter your lungs and cause gradual damage over a long time period.
It’s important to understand that asbestosis is not a rapid condition. The fibres cause damage over time, and it can take between 20 to 30 years before you see any symptoms.
Furthermore, in most instances, it requires prolonged exposure to develop serious cases of asbestosis. As a result, a one-time exposure is not likely to cause too many problems (But it’s still preferred to never be exposed at all!).
Who is more at risk of asbestosis exposure?
The people who are most at risk are those who have potentially been exposed to asbestos fibres multiple times either via employment or at home. These include:
• Construction workers
• Demolition workers
• Heating workers
• People who own a property with asbestos
• People with pre-existing lung conditions
Those working in the construction industry and trade jobs in the US are the most at risk – particularly anything with property refurbishments, improvements, or demolition. This is because they are far more likely to disturb asbestos fibres on a daily basis.
Hopefully, if you do work in one of the above jobs, you will have received training, and are provided with the correct PPE such as filtered breathing masks when working on properties that are known to contain asbestos.
If you don’t work in construction, the main risk is if your property contains asbestos. Additionally, asbestosis is far more damaging to those with pre-existing lung conditions. If you have any breathing-related conditions like COPD or pneumonia, it’s essential that you make sure your property doesn’t contain any asbestos.
Asbestosis Exposure Symptoms
The damage from breathing in asbestos fibres is caused from lung scarring. Over time, the fibres steadily damage your lung lining and this will result in the following asbestosis exposure symptoms:
• Shortness of breath
• A persistent cough
• Extreme fatigue
• Chest and shoulder pains
• Swollen fingertips
It’s important to note that you may not get all of these symptoms. For example, swollen fingertips is usually only found in advanced asbestosis cases.
However, you will essentially notice a decline in your breathing and energy. Remember that this is not usually an instant process. The asbestos fibres could take years to damage your lungs and you may not notice symptoms for decades after.
Therefore, construction workers who were active during the asbestos era may only be noticing asbestosis exposure symptoms in the last decade. If you do have a combination of the above symptoms, and worked in construction during the 1960s-1980s, it is important to see a doctor.
How to Reduce the Chance of Contracting Asbestosis
Construction workers and tradespeople must take precautions and wear the correct PPE when working on properties that could contain asbestos. Special filtered breathing masks are essential as this will stop the dust entering your lungs.
For home owners, the best preventative measure is to test suspected areas that you think could contain asbestos. Remember that your home is only likely to contain asbestos if it was built before 1990. This is because asbestos was banned in the later 1970s, but there was some overlap until the mid-1980s where manufacturers were still allowed to sell and use their stocks.
Asbestos Testing Kits
If your property was built before 1990, we advise checking our articles on the different types of asbestos construction products. Furthermore, you can order a home testing kit to eliminate any uncertainty. If you find asbestos, you can then seek professional advice as to if it poses a health risk, and if it needs removing.It may be the case that the asbestos doesn’t need removing. This is because if the fibres remain dormant and undisturbed, they pose no threat. It’s only if the products that contain asbestos are disturbed or damaged, that you could breathe the dust in. Therefore, if you notice things like damaged floor tiles or loose insultation, testing is imperative.
Knowledge is Power – Test Your Home for Asbestos Today
We hope you now have a clear understanding of asbestosis and the potential dangers it poses. If you own a property that was built before 1990 in the US, it is vital that you check for asbestos. As mentioned, there could be asbestos in numerous places including floor tiles, sidings, and insulation. By using one of our asbestos test kits, you can eliminate any uncertainty, and be sure your family is protected from the complications of asbestosis.