Tips for Avoiding Asbestos-Related Illness and Disease
As Ben Franklin once advised, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” While Franklin was actually discussing fire prevention, the sentiment rings just as true for disease, illness, accidents, and other dangers we face throughout life.
Common sense tells us that it’s better to avoid an illness than to contract it and have to seek a cure. But that presupposes that a cure is available.
In some unfortunate instances, such as with mesothelioma, once the disease is contracted, there is no cure. Therefore, prevention becomes doubly important.
In this article, we will provide some tips for avoiding asbestos-related illness and disease.
Who Is at Risk for Asbestos-Related Illness?
The people most vulnerable to the risk of mesothelioma, pleural effusion, asbestosis, and lung cancer are those who are regularly exposed to asbestos.
Asbestos is a mineral, which in its normal state is usually not considered to be dangerous to humans. Because the mineral has useful heat and fire-resistant properties, it has been mined and used in products for centuries.
Unfortunately, when asbestos is disturbed, tiny fibers can become airborne and inhaled by those close by. Over time, the inhaled fibers can build up in a person’s lungs and lead to illness.
Fortunately, it takes significant exposure to become ill. While there is not a specific definition of “significant,” the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute states that “significant” usually means several months of exposure to asbestos fibers.
How Are Asbestos-Related Illness and Disease Prevented?
Tip 1 - Avoid Asbestos
Most adults today have at least heard that there are dangers associated with asbestos. And it’s true that restrictions on the use of asbestos make it far less likely than in the past that a person will have a dangerous level of exposure.
However, some people wrongly think that asbestos has been banned, without realizing that there are still permitted uses of the mineral. Plus, many old buildings still contain asbestos.
Thus, construction activities, demolition activities, fires, and any activity which disturbs the asbestos can create a hazard. If possible, just stay away from such activities.
Tip 2 - Don’t Disturb Asbestos
If you work around asbestos, it can be safe, as long as it is enclosed and not disturbed. Don’t take any actions which can cause the fibers to become airborne - such as sawing, drilling, cutting, sanding, or otherwise disturbing materials containing asbestos.
Similarly, don’t sweep or vacuum asbestos-containing materials unless you’re specially trained to do so and have the proper equipment.
Tip 3 - Follow and Enforce Work-Related Rules
Now that the dangers of asbestos are better understood, all levels of government have taken steps to increase safety, including the development of workplace rules. While it’s normal human nature to sometimes sidestep a rule or two, especially when we are in a hurry, resist such an urge when it comes to asbestos. OHA has many relevant regulations, including the following requirements:
- Assessments of asbestos risks
- Proper air monitoring
- Appropriate training
- Communication with employees concerning the dangers of asbestos
Tip 4 - Wear Safety Clothing, Including Respirators, As Directed
Wear safety clothing whenever it is advised. Some professionals, such as firefighters or those involved in demolition activities, should wear respirators. Nothing disturbs asbestos fibers more than the demolition of a building or its destruction by fire.
Tip 5 - Don’t Take Asbestos Home with You
If you’re regularly exposed to asbestos particles, do not take your protective clothing home. It should be professionally cleaned. It’s important not to expose family members to the fibers.
Tip 6 - Ask Questions
If you have any doubts as to whether you’re exposed to asbestos at work, ask.
Tip 7 - Stop Smoking
For those who have been exposed to asbestos, smoking greatly increases the risk of developing an asbestos-related disease. Therefore, it’s important to stop smoking.
Tip 8 - Hire a Professional at Home
If you have an older home and believe there may be an asbestos danger, have a licensed abatement company perform an inspection. They can help you with any needed abatement issues.
Call with Questions
Unfortunately, because mesothelioma can take decades to develop, people are still becoming sick who never had a chance to exercise prevention. Some of these people were exposed at a time when certain employers and companies were intentionally hiding the dangers of asbestos. Society demands that such people be held accountable for their actions.
If you’re concerned about exposure to asbestos, you probably have questions about medical alternatives, legal rights, and lots of other things. Please call us and we will be happy to answer them.