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Asbestos FAQ

If you have a home that was built before the 1980s, it might contain dangerous fibers called asbestos. You must learn as much as you can about this fiber and what it can do to you so that you can keep yourself and your family safe. Construction crews often used asbestos in home construction because it’s cheap, but researchers found out that it causes cancer.

Many people exposed to asbestos years ago still die from cancer and other diseases related to the harmful fiber. Although construction workers are the most at risk, homeowners must also take steps to protect themselves.

What are the Symptoms of Asbestos Exposure?

Mesothelioma is the most common disease caused by exposure to asbestos. If you think you were exposed to this material, learn the symptoms so that you can get proper medical care as soon as possible:

  • Swelling of the neck and face

  • Trouble swallowing

  • High blood pressure

  • Blood in mucus

  • Shortness of breath

After you inhale asbestos, the first symptoms can take up to 30 years to appear.

What is Asbestos?

Asbestos refers to silicate minerals used for insulation in roofs and walls. During the construction process, tiny asbestos particles get into the air and remain suspended. The construction workers and other people in the area then inhale the fibers into their lungs.

A lot of people wonder why such a harmful substance is so common, but not everyone knew about the risks years ago. Some companies that were aware of the dangers continued using it because it was much cheaper than other types of insulation. Many of those companies are now the target of class-action lawsuits from impacted construction workers who still battle complications from exposure.

When Did We First Start Using Asbestos?

Asbestos use goes back to the Stone Age, and early civilizations used it in candles and lamps. Ancient Egyptians wrapped their pharaohs in asbestos to preserve their bodies, and some cultures used the harmful fibers in the pots they created. In addition to making the pots stronger, asbestos also made them resistant to fire. Asbestos did not experience widespread use until the 1800s.

During that period, companies used the material as insulation for boilers, ovens, steam engines, and other industrial equipment. Miners had to extract and manually transport asbestos during most of the 1800s, but things changed near the end of the century. Companies soon discovered the many ways they could use asbestos, and they then devoted steam engines to the mining process.

Some companies used child labor in the mining of this dangerous substance. Many more companies began mining and using asbestos as time passed, and tons of workers were exposed to it as a result.

An Austrian doctor was one of the first people to document the possible impact asbestos has on people’s health. The doctor discovered that a patient’s pulmonary problems were related to asbestos exposure in 1887. In 1906, the first recorded death related to asbestos happened at the Charring Cross Hospital in London. Despite those discoveries, the United States became the No. 1 country to manufacture and use asbestos by the 1900s.

By the late 1970s, the world began noticing the connection between asbestos and deadly lung conditions. Construction unions protested the use of asbestos and demanded safer working conditions, and 17 countries banned the material in the 2000s. The Environmental Protection Agency tried banning asbestos in 1989.

But the asbestos industry pressured the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn the ban. Although asbestos use remains legal in the United States, its use declined when consumers and employees realized the threat it posed to their health.

How Does Asbestos Affect Your Health?

When you inhale asbestos, the tiny fibers get stuck in your lungs and can remain there for your entire life. Over time, asbestos irritates your lungs and causes scarring to occur. Your body has a defense system to prevent harmful substances from entering your lungs, but asbestos slips through the cracks, so to speak.

When your body detects asbestos, it triggers inflammation to block it from entering your lungs. The inflammation is not effective at removing asbestos fibers. But your body keeps trying to get rid of the fibers, which results in long-term inflammation that hardens the lungs. The hardening of the lungs can disrupt cell growth and cause cancer to form.

How Do You Remove Asbestos?

If you are worried that your home might contain asbestos, don’t try to handle the material on your own. Some people use at-home solutions to save money, but it’s not worth the risk to your health. Failing to remove asbestos properly puts you and those you care about in harm’s way.

No amount of preparation compares to the training and experience of caring professionals. Asbestos removal companies can test your home for asbestos and address the problem at the source. They use specialized equipment to protect their workers each step of the way. A qualified asbestos removal team will test the air after they finish the job to ensure that no asbestos remains in your home.

If you suspect your home contains asbestos, contact the pros at Burns Environmental Services (800) 577-4009.