Asbestos is a group of natural mineral fibers that occurs in rock and soil but with some unusual qualities. These fibers are strong enough, durable, and resist high temperature. Because of this, they have been widely used in a variety of building construction materials for insulation and as a fire and electricity retardant. They have also been used in a wide range of manufacturing goods, mostly in building materials such as roofing shingles, ceiling and floor tiles, paper products, and asbestos cement products. In addition, these fibers have been used in friction products such as automobile clutch, brake, and transmission parts, heat-resistant fabrics, packaging, gaskets, and coatings as well. This combination of properties gives asbestos performance capabilities that are difficult to match.
Asbestos are quite tiny that a person can’t see. Disturbing them can cause fibers to float in the air which is easy to inhale. You breathe out most fibers, but some stuck in the lungs. Over time, they can build up in the lungs, causing scarring and inflammation which lead to lung cancer, mesothelioma, larynx cancer, ovarian cancer and asbestosis diseases. Over time, lung diseases associated with asbestos can usually develop. This becomes till more worse by cigarette smoking. Since it is well recognized as a health hazard, the European Union has banned all the uses of asbestos and extraction, manufacture and processing of asbestos products.
Licensed asbestos removal is mainly required when working with particular asbestos containing materials can only be carried out by somebody who holds a license issued by HSE (Health and Safety Executive). Licensed asbestos removal is granted for a limited period of time usually one or three years, enabling HSE to review licenses and the performance of license holders at regular intervals. Also, everyone who works with asbestos materials does not require a license for asbestos removal. Only for the persons who are all working with sprayed asbestos coatings, asbestos insulation or asbestos lagging and most working with asbestos insulating board (AIB) requires a license because of its hazardous nature of such higher risk materials.
Harmful health problems associated with exposure to asbestos can be controlled by the following steps;
For Construction and Maintenance Workers –
- Must be aware whether asbestos is present in their working place before start working. If it is there, should take appropriate precautionary measures.
- Must try to avoid creating asbestos dust from scraping, brushing, rubbing or cutting damaged insulation.
- Must report insulation damage to the right authority immediately, such as the Occupational Health and Safety Manager.
- For Public and commercial building owners –
- Always maintain a list of locations and materials that contain asbestos to inform users, authorities and contractors.
For Homeowners –
- Must get an expert’s advice before removing asbestos containing materials.
- Must check regularly to find out whether your home contains asbestos or not.
Most importantly, you can’t always recognize the asbestos containing materials just by looking at it. Instead, always have it analyzed by the qualified professional to be safe and healthy.