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Asbestos and Its Effects on Health and the Environment

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Some decades back, asbestos was popularly incorporated into a lot of construction and household products, resulting to a quite a number of home and office buildings having parts made of asbestos-containing materials. After it was discovered to be detrimental to health, its use in a lot of products was discontinued. However, due to the wide range of use of asbestos in the past, some of the structures that contained this naturally-occurring mineral still exist today, and its risks still pose a threat to people and the environment.

But just what kind of impact does asbestos have to both human and environmental health?


Understanding Asbestos

Asbestos is the name given to a group of silicon-based minerals that is mined in various locations around the world. Its flame-resistant and insulating qualities made it the perfect component for all sorts of construction materials in the past. It was commonly found around the heating systems of home and office buildings, particularly in roofing shingles, vinyl floors, casings for pipes, insulation, as well as ceiling tiles. Houses and buildings built during the 1970s up to the mid-1980s are expected to have parts made with asbestos.

However, studies then showed how asbestos was linked to several types of life-threatening diseases, which then caused it to be banned from use in household and construction materials. Nevertheless, a number of these structures still exist today, making the risk of exposure to asbestos still present.


Health Hazards

Exposure to asbestos has been known to cause asbestosis and mesothelioma. Mesothelioma, an aggressive yet lesser-known cancer that affects the chest cavity lining tissues, is quite difficult to treat. Workers with prolonged exposure to asbestos in the occupational setting are particularly at risk in developing these life-threatening medical diseases.


Environmental Concerns

Asbestos not only negatively affects humans, but also the environment. Due to the size of asbestos fibers, they are not easily spotted when released into the air through which they travel and possibly find their way into the water supply. They can also settle on the ground, or on the soil surface, from where they can still be picked up by the wind and inhaled by not only humans, but also animals.


Managing Asbestos in the Workplace

While asbestos is no longer commonly used to make products and materials, the risks still remain. However, asbestos is really only a cause for concern when it’s released into the air. Companies that deal with the production of asbestos, or have structures that were constructed during the heyday of asbestos use should follow government standards and provide safety training and certification to their employees. On the other hand, workers should equip themselves with the right knowledge, as well as know company policies when dealing with asbestos.

Asbestos-related illnesses can definitely be prevented in the workplace. Keeping the working area safe and the workers free from the hazards caused by asbestos is a collaborative effort that requires everyone in the company to do their parts well. Ensuring that asbestos is safely encapsulated benefits not only the employees and their families, but also the environment and all who live in it.


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