Asbestos occurs naturally and was a commonly used material in the building and construction industry. In 1999, the use of asbestos was banned and builders urged to seek an alternative material. Nonetheless, you will still find asbestos in hospitals, schools, homes and commercial buildings. These are the structures constructed prior to the full ban on the material. In the heydays, asbestos was the choice material for roof tiles, boilers and ceiling pipes among others. It has been established that inhalation of loose asbestos fibers causes lung illnesses and even cancer. You may have come into contact with asbestos before. So long as there is no disturbance on the material, you are safe working in places built using asbestos.
Dealing with asbestos-containing material
If you disturb products that contain asbestos, they release tiny fibers. Once airborne, you breathe them in. Soon as the fibers get into your lungs, they remain there for years. With time, they accumulate resulting in a number of health related complications. Some of these include:
Mesothelioma: This is a cancerous infection affecting the abdomen, chest cavity and your lungs.
Asbestosis: This condition inflames the lungs resulting in short breath and persistent coughs.
Other cancers: Exposure to asbestos also causes other cancers such as those affecting the throat, brain and gastrointestinal tract.
Precautions when working with materials containing asbestos
If you happen to live in a house constructed with several asbestos based materials, you should leave them alone. In case you are doing repair work that involves stripping away parts of these materials, remove them in large fragments. Pipe insulation blocks can be easy to remove since they were molded to fit the pipes. Avoid breaking the materials. Before removal, cutting or drilling, wet the surface area being worked on. After removing the damaged sections, place the chunks of material in a plastic bag and tie it securely. Avoid using a vacuum cleaner to remove dust. Never attempt to sand asbestos based materials. Once you are through with the repair work, clean the area using a wet sponge or mop.
If you are a building technician, here are some precautions:
Check before working on buildings constructed prior to year 2000. Asbestos is not easy to identify as it was used in mixed forms. Liaise with the building owners and the original construction company.
For repair tasks where you suspect contact with asbestos, let licensed contractors handle it.
Attend asbestos removal classes and receive training on how to work in asbestos laced environments.
Always use protective equipment when working with asbestos. These include face masks, gloves and goggles. Otherwise, engage a licensed technician or contractor to carry out repairs to your home or office. These are trained personnel and have the capacity to work with precaution. Seek medical attention for any respiratory tract infections.