Knowledge Prepares People for the Risks
Asbestos is a mineral that is present in a number of items and products. Its positives are that fibers made from it are strong and that it resists heat very well. However, asbestos exposure may cause health problems.
Prior to the 1970s, many products and homes and buildings had asbestos components. Although asbestos is used today, its use is significantly lower than it was decades ago. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, asbestos is not harmful unless it is disturbed, thereby releasing particles into the air.
The EPA says it can take 10 to 40 years after asbestos exposure before health problems occur. Asbestos may cause lung cancer; asbestosis, a non-cancerous disease of the lungs; mesothelioma, a cancer that affects the thin lining of the lungs, chest and abdomen; and other diseases.
In homes and buildings, asbestos may be found in vinyl floor tiles and the backing on vinyl sheet flooring. Ceiling tiles, texture for walls and ceilings, joint compound, oil and coal furnaces and siding for homes also may contain asbestos as may garden and potting soil containing vermiculite.
People working in certain occupations are at higher risk of asbestos exposure. These include carpenters, contractors and workers in shipyards, steel mills and paper mills. Individuals who work around printing presses and ship boilers may also be exposed. Additionally, auto mechanics and workers in plants that make autos and auto parts also face risks.
People who intend to file a disability claim based on asbestos exposure need to pinpoint when and where their first exposure occurred. It helps to know what environments may promote asbestos exposure.