Friday, September 26, 2008

Asbestos Safety: Protecting Your Family and Environment

I recently got a request from the Mesothelioma and Asbestos Awareness Center to help spread the word about health and safety concerns, not just for laypeople in residential and commercial buildings, but also for workers in aging coal and oil industrial buildings. I'd heard, of course, about health risks associated with asbestos, but I'd never connected it with the energy industry. I asked for info about that area of concern as well as the family-focused take on asbestos.

"Firstly, many people believe asbestos is a hazard of the past, when the fact is that asbestos still exists within nearly 80% of structures built prior to 1978. Asbestos products were banned in the late 1970's but still exist in floor tiles, ceiling tiles, drywall, insulation, and other home construction materials. These are common, but only hazardous if they're damaged or aged.
If you have asbestos products in your home, you should be aware of where they are and what their condition is. Additionally, children should not be allowed within the vicinity of asbestos products because something as innocent as a child's curiosity can render a product hazardous for the entire family. Asbestos exposure has been conclusively linked to the rare cancer mesothelioma, a malignancy for which there is no known cure."

Thanks so much for sending this info! So, my basic question is this: how would a mother know if there were asbestos in her home? Or in any other building (school, daycare, etc.) where it might jeopardize her kids' health? Are there general guidelines of trouble areas you could give the moms reading my blog?

"The important thing to remember for homeowners and particularly those with children, is that because asbestos was so widely used, it must be assumed it is within your home in at least some capacity if the structure is more than 30 years old. For reference let me give some of the most common areas where asbestos would be found in a home.

Pipe coverings: Asbestos was used extensively as a pipe insulation in cold weather climates. For instance a basement or garage will likely have older HVAC/plumbing piping and ventilation, much of which was insulated with asbestos insulation sleeves. Any damage or fraying of these sleeves presents a hazard.

Flooring: Asbestos was often used in linoleum and, floor tile, and even tile glue because it was extremely fire-retardant. Older, damaged flooring should be examined by an asbestos consultant if there is a fear it may contain asbestos.

Ceiling tiles: Foam-based drop ceiling tiles are common in basements and other rooms. These were often made with asbestos to reduce fire hazards around lighting fixtures. When you handle these tiles, you can feel how brittle they are. Any damaged to these (such as water damage) can make older tiles extremely hazardous. If you have these in your home, they should be
monitored carefully for damage.

As far as outside the home, it seems each day a new school is being closed for a few days because of an asbestos scare. This is not to say that all schools contain asbestos, but many are large municipal buildings with extensive HVAC and plumbing fixtures, that like I said above were insulated with asbestos. Districts are typically very open with parents and faculty with regards to asbestos history in school buildings.

Damaged asbestos products should be examined by a state licensed asbestos consultant and removed by a licensed abatement company. These companies are in compliance with the proper removal and environmentally friendly disposal methods for asbestos products.

Asbestos however, is not only a hazard in the home, but also in industrial settings, particularly in the processing of fossil fuels. Asbestos was heavily utilized in coal plants and oil refineries for more than a century before it was finally banned. But like residential structures, it still remains in the older fixtures of these environmentally unfriendly industries.

Workers in these industries have among the highest rates of mesothelioma of any occupation. Exposure typically occurs around boilers, piping, and older insulation fixtures. These men and women are being needlessly exposed as our backwards environmental policies continue to prop up these industries which damage the future of our plane. A decreased reliance upon fossil fuels in general would make these industries look toward more safe and environmentally friendly energy options. We see now that we can save the planet for not only for our children through alternative energy options, but also the health of our industrial workers.

For more information concerning mesothelioma or mesothelioma treatment please
visit the Mesothelioma and Asbestos Awareness Center."

Thanks for the info!

1 comment:

Jess W said...

Thanks for posting this info. My mother dies when I was 21 from mesothelioma. We still don't know how she was exposed to it as she was only 48 and had never worked or been around asbestos to the best of our knowledge. I've very glad we live in a newer home or this would certainly be a constant fear of mine.