Asbestos is dangerous because it is a naturally occurring mineral that, when disturbed, can release tiny, lightweight fibers into the air. These fibers are invisible to the naked eye and can be inhaled or ingested, leading to serious health risks. Here are some key reasons why asbestos is hazardous:
Carcinogenic Properties: Asbestos is a known human carcinogen. Prolonged exposure to asbestos fibers can lead to the development of several types of cancer, including lung cancer, mesothelioma (a rare cancer that affects the lining of the lungs, abdomen, or heart), and cancers of the larynx and ovaries.
Respiratory Issues: Inhaling asbestos fibers can cause a range of respiratory problems, including asbestosis. This is a chronic lung condition characterized by scarring and inflammation of lung tissue, leading to breathing difficulties, coughing, and chest pain.
Latency Period: One of the particularly insidious aspects of asbestos-related diseases is their long latency period. It can take decades for symptoms to appear after exposure, making it difficult to connect the health issues to past asbestos exposure.
Fiber Persistence: Unlike many other airborne particles, asbestos fibers do not break down easily in the body. Once they are inhaled or ingested, they can remain trapped in the body for years, increasing the risk of long-term health problems.
No Safe Level of Exposure: There is no safe level of asbestos exposure. Even brief exposure to asbestos fibers can pose a risk to health, and the higher the exposure levels and the longer the duration, the greater the risk.
Secondary Exposure: Individuals who work with or are regularly exposed to asbestos may carry fibers home on their clothing, skin, or hair, inadvertently exposing their family members to the dangers of asbestos through secondary exposure.
Due to the well-established health risks associated with asbestos, its use has been heavily regulated or banned in many countries, especially in construction and manufacturing industries. Asbestos-containing materials that are in good condition and undisturbed typically do not pose an immediate risk. However, any renovation, demolition, or maintenance work that disturbs these materials can release asbestos fibers into the air, creating a hazard for anyone in the vicinity. As a result, proper asbestos abatement and removal procedures are essential to protect human health and the environment when dealing with asbestos-containing materials.