Before 1978, asbestos was used in nearly every home in some fashion. Asbestos was used in various materials including floor and ceiling tiles, pipe covering, drywall, insulation, cement and roof shingles. Asbestos incorporated into more than 5,000 products and used for its insulating and fireproofing characteristics. The harmful effects of asbestos were first discovered in 1977 by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, which is part of the World Health Organization (WHO). Today, a total of 52 countries have a ban on the use of asbestos, however there are still many without bans and some that continue to mine and export the material to developing regions. Because asbestos generally only causes health problems when the fibers are released into the air, many homes and buildings built before the 80’s still contain the material.
The Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) of 1970 requires employers to be responsible for the safety of their employees by providing and safe a healthful workplace. OSHA has the ability to set and enforce standards. Studies have found that OSHA has given the most fines per violation to healthcare facilities. This is most likely because hospitals and medical centers go through numerous renovations and upgrades to their facilities. Additionally, certain occupations are known for high use of asbestos-containing products including the shipyard, power plant, chemical plant, construction, manufacturing, and automotive industries.
Workers in these industries may have been exposed to the material and should receive annual checkups to look for asbestos related diseases. This exposure can lead to a number of serious conditions including lung cancer, asbestosis and mesothelioma. Asbestos is the leading cause of mesothelioma cancer, which affects the lungs, heart, and abdominal organs. Additionally, the effects of asbestos exposure do not arise until 10 to 50 years after the initial exposure.
Exposure can also occur in older homes, during renovations or upgrades. Neighborhoods near asbestos-related industries or mines also have a risk of exposure. Because asbestos is found everywhere, exposure can also occur through food and water. However, the low concentration in food and water provide a much lower risk for disease than airborne asbestos fibers. If asbestos is found, it must be inspected, sealed, and at times removed.
The Mesothelioma Center provides a breadth of information on asbestos and preventative measures to stop the spread of the incurable disease, mesothelioma. The center encourages those with the threat of asbestos exposure to hire professionals to inspect the building and determine a mitigation plan. Follow The Mesothelioma Center on Twitter for daily news updates and “Like” them on Facebook to connect with others and share your resources.