If you work in construction, shipbuilding, demolition or a similar industry, you may have come in contact with asbestos at some point. Manufacturers no longer use asbestos but it is still present in many older buildings.
The dangers of asbestos are now well-documented. It is essential to know about the underlying health risks, as well as the precautions you can take to protect yourself from exposure.
Once it breaks down, asbestos releases tiny but dangerous fibers that you can inhale and accumulate in your lungs. These minerals can cause several diseases, including asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma (a rare form of cancer that affects the lining of the lungs and the abdomen). Over time, inhaling asbestos fibers can cause the body to create excess scar tissue, which can lead to lung and chest wall restriction, as well as decreased lung function.
If you are regularly in contact with asbestos, your employer has a duty to protect you by following certain safety protocols. The most important of these is to avoid regular, high-intensity exposure to asbestos. Asbestos is most dangerous when someone disturbs it, so your employer should take every precaution to avoid disturbing asbestos materials during work. Your employer should also follow other Occupational Safety and Health Administration guidelines regarding asbestos.
Asbestos can be hard to identify, and you might not even realize that you have been inhaling it until it is too late. However, by educating yourself, you can protect your health from now on.