Asbestos History And Its Associated Health Risks

asbestos_pieceAsbestos is a mineral fiber that has been utilized as insulating material for decades until the late 1970s because of its strong resistance to fire and heat. Some of the household products that contain this mineral are textured paint, drywall compound, shingles, millboard, siding, duct insulation for pipe and furnace, and flooring adhesive. It has also been applied as insulating material in construction, automobiles and shipping. Actually, asbestos history can be traced back to the Greeks who noted its fireproofing capability.

The Greeks And Romans

However, it is interesting to note in asbestos history that the Greeks and Romans also observed the harmful effects of asbestos on the lungs. They observed the sickness of the lungs experienced by slaves who included asbestos fiber in their clothing. However, the Greeks and Romans were so amazed by the seemingly magical properties of asbestos that they chose to ignore its negative effects. The Romans had the habit of cleaning their asbestos napkins by throwing them into the fire. Amazingly, the napkins would not be burned but emerge whiter instead. The popularity of asbestos then declined in the Middle Ages but it became popular again during the late 1800s during the Industrial Revolution.

Health Risks Associated With Asbestos

The health risks associated with asbestos became evident during the early part of the 20th century because in 1917 and 1918, scientists noted that asbestos workers were dying very young. An English doctor diagnosed asbestosis in 1924 in a woman who had been working with asbestos since she was 13 and died at the age of 33. This finding triggered research on the causes of death of workers in asbestos mining towns who were dying at an early age. Because 25 percent of these workers were found to have lung disease caused by asbestos, the English passed legislation that declared asbestosis to be a work-related disease and mandated an increase in ventilation in the workplace.

Environmental Protection Agency

According to asbestos history in the US, the ban on the use of asbestos was issued by the Environmental Protection Agency in 1989. Since then, laws have been passed governing the removal of asbestos or asbestos remediation and its proper disposal. It took so long for the US to act on the health risks posed by this mineral despite the publication of articles in the 1930s that suggested a relationship between asbestos and cancer because of two things. First, health concerns about this mineral were overshadowed by silicosis, which is also a lung disease caused by silica dust. Workers who were affected were able to successfully file $300 million lawsuits against their employers. Asbestos companies took this as a warning and promptly attempted to hide evidence about the health effects of asbestos. They continued to utilize asbestos as an ingredient. And despite the presence of safer alternatives, such as fiberglass, the companies chose to ignore the dangers of asbestos for the sake of protecting their profits.

Asbestos Test

Asbestos test is done to ascertain whether a specific material contains asbestos. You cannot tell just by looking at the material unless the material has been labeled as free from asbestos. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA or sometimes USEPA), which is a part of the Federal Government in the Unites States has set asbestos regulations, which have been created to protect the human health, and safeguarding the environment, viz., air, water, and land, from asbestos impurities. When-ever you are not certain, apply asbestos test to determine whether asbestos is present in the material or in the environment you live in.

Analysis Of Asbestos

Asbestos test is generally done by a professional who carries out asbestos sampling for analysis. He is an expert and knows what to look for in analyzing the material. Asbestos sampling is usually done under a polarized light microscopy which is a special type of microscope. The process of asbestos sampling involves asbestos testing and it helps to find out the type and percentage of asbestos present in the material. Asbestos test is usually carried out by professionals who are knowledgeable in the matter.

Friable Asbestos

a_logo1Asbestos impurities in the air come from friable asbestos when removing asbestos, asbestos disposal, and while maintaining asbestos structures, as for example, asbestos encapsulation. Tiny particles of asbestos product spread widely in the environment while floating in air, and mostly occur if friable asbestos is left unattended, disposed, or is crushed under pressure. Inhalation of these particles is hazardous to heath, and it becomes necessary to have asbestos sampling and asbestos testing done in many such suspected areas.

The Use Of Asbestos

Asbestos is used in various places, for example, it is used as insulation and floor backing in homes and places of business. It is very difficult to ascertain if the environment has been polluted with asbestos impurities. For testing the environment for any impurities, asbestos test should be done and for this an asbestos test kit can be used. The kit is capable of identifying asbestos particles in the environment to as little as 1% content by weight. This falls well within the EPA guideline.

3 Types Of Asbestos Test Available

Type 1

The type 1 is just a visual inspection where the building or the material is just inspected and is a way of putting your mind at ease. The type 1 test complies with asbestos regulations in asbestos test procedures.

Type 2

Type 2 involves visual inspection and also asbestos sampling is carried out. This is a normal asbestos test procedure and is the most cost effective way to determine presence of asbestos impurities.

Type 3

Type 3 is the most important asbestos test and is a ‘fully intrusive’ survey. This asbestos test is taken up when structure containing asbestos needs to be taken down including asbestos demolition. Removing asbestos creates several asbestos fibers and particles to float away in the air, there-by inducing asbestos pollution in the environment.

If you have vermiculite insulation at home, specifically for insulating your attic, there are chances that the material is contaminated with asbestos. You need to take steps in having asbestos sampling done at your home, and the recommended asbestos test should be carried out by the experts. This would ensure the health of your family and yourself and keep your home free from asbestos impurities.