Asbestos. The very word itself conjures up images of people who are sick with diseases like mesothelioma, lung cancer, and other kinds of non-malignant lung diseases such as asbestosis, pleural plaques, and pleural thickening. In Australia, there are hundreds of people who die from asbestos related diseases every year. Unfortunately, asbestos was being widely used in housing construction and in building and mining, way before the dangers to the health of people were widely known and spread across the world.
Of course, now that we understand the full ramifications and health risks of using asbestos, it is now illegal to use it in any new product in Australia. For a time, asbestos was a very common building material, and older Australian fibro houses contain asbestos in some form or another. There are many ways that you can identify the presence of asbestos in your home, and if you do suspect that you have asbestos in your home, you should do a thorough examination. An examination is especially important if you have young children, who may be playing with the walls and flaking off pieces. Asbestos can be a very brittle material and can be highly dangerous to people. Asbestos removal in Melbourne is a huge service given the numbers of people who are renovating, and it’s a vital service as well, given the health risks.
Exposure to airborne asbestos particles
As many of us know, the exposure that you get from airborne asbestos particles poses the greatest potential risk to your health. When the fibres from asbestos become airborne, you may potentially inhale these particles. These asbestos particles then remain stuck in your lungs and over time can develop into diseases. Anyone’s chance of developing an asbestos related disease depends entirely on the exposure that has been had to asbestos, and the duration of that exposure. The height of asbestos use peaked in the mid to late 1970, but there were still asbestos cement products being installed into the 1990s. Asbestos was also being used in brake linings and pad and clutch plates, a fact which has only been recently phased out. As a result, there are still people being affected by mesothelioma even today.
People who were involved in the following industries in the past are at greatest risk:
- Mining and manufacture of asbestos
- Railway carriage construction
- Office and industrial building construction
- Power industries
Asbestos in the home
You can still find asbestos products in homes that were built or renovated prior to 1990. Well, there are plenty of homes that still have asbestos in them! The asbestos is only harmful when the asbestos fibres are released into the air and subsequently breathed in. Building materials like asbestos cement sheeting in good condition will be very tightly bound, so few fibres – if any – will escape into the air. Even if the walls aren’t in good condition, the fibres that are released are negligible, and don’t spread much risk. The biggest risk comes from when asbestos material is disturbed, for example during renovations like cutting, sawing, and breaking.
We have discovered that asbestos fibres can cause health problems if they are inhaled. The body will remove most of the fibres, but some can get trapped in the lungs and cause diseases many years down the track. The kind of diseases that asbestos can cause include asbestosis, lung cancer, pleural disorders, and malignant mesothelioma, among others.
The bottom line is to ensure that you stay as fit and healthy as possible, that you remain aware of the potential risks of asbestos exposure, and that if you do suspect asbestos in your home or workplace, you take all necessary precautions to protect yourself and your family.