What is Asbestos and How can it Harm You?

Posted by Matt Silver on

What is Asbestos and How can it Harm You?

Asbestos occurs naturally, and it has been used as a building material since the early 1950s. It serves an important function as an insulator. It effectively regulates temperature and keeps heat in and cold out. The chemical composition of asbestos gives it good fire and corrosion protection properties.

Businesses that own non-domestic establishments that contain asbestos have a legal duty to manage the risks associated with this material or to cooperate with authorities that are tasked with managing the risk.

Types of Asbestos

There are three main types of asbestos that can still be found in homes, namely blue asbestos, brown asbestos, and white asbestos. All of them are characterized as dangerous carcinogens, with the blue and brown variants being more of a health hazard than the white one. Unfortunately, identifying them isn’t as simple as judging asbestos by their color.

Asbestos is typically mixed with other materials, making it hard to determine if you’re even working with it. A good way to know if your establishment contains asbestos is by tracking down its date of construction. Most buildings that are built before the year 2000 are likely to contain asbestos.

It is common to find asbestos as sprayed coating on structural supports, pipe insulation, supports, and beams. The asbestos is used for its fire protection properties and can be found in pipe insulation, ceiling, and door panels.

Health Hazard

Breathing in air that contains asbestos can lead to asbestos-related diseases, including lung and chest cancers. Asbestos only poses a risk if asbestos fibers make their way into the air and are inhaled by inhabitants. Exposure to asbestos is so dangerous that it claims thousands of lives every year, including over 12000-15000 people in the U.S.  

Major health risks associated with asbestos fibers include mesothelioma, asbestosis, and lung cancer. Scientists further believe that exposure to asbestos can trigger various types of cancer, including those of the larynx, stomach, and ovaries.

In light of the above statistics and facts, the risk posed by asbestos cannot be understated.

Health risks of asbestos are particularly more debilitating to people whose work involves drilling, sawing, and cutting into fabric that could release asbestos fibers into the air. Unless they are wearing special dust masks like X99 and X100, they could be inadvertently breathing all the dust in.


The linings of the lungs, which are known as pleura, are a type of cancer that surrounds the lower digestive tract; this is almost exclusively related to asbestos exposure. Mesothelioma is so dangerous that by the time it is diagnosed, it is almost always fatal.

Lung Cancer Triggered by Asbestos

Lung cancer caused by asbestos has the same symptoms as those caused by other causes. While it takes sustained exposure to asbestos to develop lung cancer, its effects should not be ignored. Studies have shown a direct causal relationship between asbestos and lung cancer. Common symptoms include persistent coughing, wheezing, fatigue, and chronic respiratory infections.  


Asbestosis is an inflammation of the lung due to prolonged exposure to asbestos. It shares the same symptoms as other lung diseases, and in some advanced cases, it includes swollen fingertips. Once asbestosis is developed, it may no longer be possible to reverse the damage done to the lungs. There is no cure for asbestosis, and the only best course of action is preventing its development in the first place.

Handling Asbestos Waste

Asbestos is classified as a chemical waste and should be properly disposed of. Before transporting asbestos waste at a disposal site, it should be enclosed in polythene bags and clearly labeled with the prescribed description for asbestos.

Using Respirators as Protection

Since even small quantities of airborne asbestos fibers can prove to be dangerous, it is important to remain vigilant by using proper safety equipment when dealing with hazardous material.

Various safety standard agencies like OSHA have designed extensive regulations surrounding asbestos and its handling.

Disposable respirators are cheap, simple masks that are designed to keep deadly dust away from the wearer’s face. These respirators can play an important role in protecting workers and employers. Employers are legally bound to protect their employees from asbestos dust. Failure to do so can prove to be a costly measure.

The law requires workers to wear personal protective equipment (PPE) as laid down by regulatory bodies such as OSHA. This equipment includes disposable coverall, safety glasses, and more importantly, respiratory protection.  Face masks that are certified by NIOSH have a filter efficiency of over 99% to protect against particulate matter that contains aerosols and asbestos.

NIOSH and OSHA safety agencies have an extremely precise list of requirements with only little room for deviations. To learn more about OSHA certified masks that prevent inhalation of asbestos, click here and get high-end personnel safety gear delivered right at your home.