What is asbestos?

Asbestos is a naturally occurring fibrous material that has been a popular building material since the 1950s. It is used as an insulator, has good fire protection properties and protects against corrosion. Asbestos is often mixed with other materials, so it’s difficult to know if it’s there.

Most common uses for asbestos

  • Sprayed in ceiling voids and strucural steel
  • Pre-formed coatings and lagging on pipes and boilers
  • Fire protection in ducts, partitions, soffits and ceilings
  • Insulating boards
  • Ceiling tiles
  • Floor tiles
  • Corrugated roofing sheets, raining water goods and water tanks
  • Textured finishes

The most common uses for asbestos

Crocidolite – blue

This type of asbestos is known for having the best heat resistance. This is seen as the most dangerous type of asbestos. Crocidolite was commonly used to insulate steam engines and it was found in some spray-on coatings, pipe insulation and cement product.

Amosite – brown

This was used most frequently in cement sheet and pipe insulation. It can be found in insulating board (which contained up to 40 percent asbestos), ceiling tiles and in  thermal insulation products. It has needle-like fibres.

Chrysotile – white

This is the most commonly used form of asbestos and can be found today in roofs, ceilings, walls and floors of homes and businesses. Crysotile asbestos was also used in car brake linings, pipe insulation, gaskets and boiler seals. Although it is more prevalent, some studies show it takes more exposure to chrysotile than other types of asbestos to develop related diseases.

How asbestos can affect you

Asbestos fibres are tiny and sharp and your immune system cannot get rid of them. The damage caused by asbestos typically takes 10 to 50 years to manifest symptoms. When symptoms appear, they are often mistaken for the signs of other, less dangerous health problems. Many people are not een aware that they have been exposed to asbestos.

The most common way for asbestos to enter the human body is by inhalation. The lungs taken the biggest hit. Asbestos can cause both cancerous and non-cancerous diseases affecting the lungs including:

  • Asbestosis – severe scarring of the lungs
  • Mesothelioma – a rare form of cancer that attacks the protective membrane around your lungs, abdominal organs and heart. it is a fast killing cancer with no cure and is extremely painful
  • Lung cancer

When asbestos affects the lungs, symptoms typically start out with shortness of breath after exertion, but progress to difficulty breathing even when at rest. Eventually lung capacity is reduced to the point that you can no longer perform normal everyday tasks.

Who is at risk

Anybody that disturbs asbestos products sufficiently to put dust in the air such as;

  • Contractors
  • Visitors
  • Employees

How to eliminate exposure to asbestos

  • Never disturb materials that you know or suspect to contain asbestos
  • Do not sweep up dust that may contain asbestos
  • Remove and dispose of overalls and masks, do not reuse or take home
  • If you find material you suspect to be asbestos, report it and do not move it

Asbestos can kill but remember…

  • It’s not a contagious disease
  • It’s perfectly safe unless it is disturbed and dust gets into the air
  • If you cannot breathe in asbestos you cannot be harmed by it

asbestos in the body