While you may know asbestos can be found in your home, did you know it can also take residence in your workplace? You may be wondering how it ended up there and what you should do in its presence. In this blog, we’ll take a look at how asbestos can pose massive health risks to your workforce and what to do if you discover it in the workplace.
Asbestos is a fibrous and dangerous material if contacted with. For years, asbestos has been used as insulation and for other building materials (on top of being a fire retardant). It can also be found in brake pads, automobile clutches, and roofing materials.
Given its versatility, you can most likely find asbestos in most older commercial spaces — despite drastically being reduced in the West in recent years.
Understanding the dangers of asbestos comes with awareness of its location. Specific places to keep an eye out for asbestos, per the EPA, include:
- “Attic and wall insulation produced containing vermiculite
- Vinyl floor tiles and the backing on vinyl sheet flooring and adhesives
- Roofing and siding shingles
- Textured paint and patching compounds used on walls and ceilings
- Walls and floors around wood-burning stoves protected with asbestos paper, millboard, or cement sheets
- Hot water and steam pipes coated with asbestos material or covered with an asbestos blanket or tape”
The Importance of Ventilation
Undisturbed asbestos is one challenge, but what happens when it is disturbed? You then run the risk of asbestos fibers becoming airborne. So when it comes to warding off the dangers of asbestos, understanding exposure and its ties to ventilation can help you in the long run.
Consider factors like air change, which, as its name suggests, is the number of times air volume fluctuates or is removed within an hour. Alongside that, you should also consider air distribution and air flow rates (volume of air passing through a space at any time). Having a healthy amount of each, plus good ventilation, aids in the fight against asbestos.
According to a study published in Oxford Academic, “Efficient ventilation is essential to control airborne asbestos within enclosures. In good ventilation, the working areas where [asbestos fibers] are released are flushed well with air, diluting concentrations effectively.”
They do note, however, that “high nominal air change rates alone may not guarantee good air distribution” and that “Inefficient ventilation leads to increased [fiber] levels in the enclosure and thus dust deposits on surfaces.”
Asbestos Exposure Can Lead to Mesothelioma
One of the biggest dangers of asbestos is its link to mesothelioma. A deadly cancer that attacks the mesothelium (the protective shield for your lungs, heart, testes, and abdomen), mesothelioma is closely associated with asbestos exposure.
According to the Mayo Clinic, there are two predominant types of mesothelioma: pleural and peritoneal. Pleural attacks the lungs, so symptoms to keep an eye out for include chest pain, shortness of breath, painful coughing, weight loss, and/or lumps under the chest area. Peritoneal, on the other hand, attacks the abdomen. Symptoms include: abdominal swelling and pain, weight loss, and nausea.
Pericardial mesothelioma, as the name suggests, attacks the heart. Keep an eye out for difficulties in breathing and/or chest pains.
There is no known cure for mesothelioma.
The Dangers of Asbestos Include Other Cancers
On top of mesothelioma, there are a number of other cancers and ailments associated with asbestos exposure.
According to the American Cancer Society, asbestos exposure has been linked to increased risk of lung cancer. Furthermore, cancers of the larynx and ovaries have been linked — adding to the dangers of asbestos exposure. Other potential cancers linked (but not confirmed) to asbestos include cancers of the pharynx (throat), rectum, colon, and stomach.
Asbestosis is another ailment associated with asbestos exposure. As Indoor Science notes, asbestosis can lead to lung scarring through exposure to the fibrous material.
Combating the Dangers of Asbestos with Donnelly
Asbestos exposure is one of the biggest dangers a building can pose to one’s health. Here at Donnelly, providing healthy indoor air quality to you is our priority. Through our partnership with Indoor Science, we conduct comprehensive testing for indoor environmental risk factors, including asbestos.
So whether it’s asbestos testing or general HVAC maintenance, we’re more than happy to help!