Exposure to asbestos carries with it the potential risk of a signature cancer – malignant mesothelioma. The risk of exposure to asbestos fibers that cause damage to the thin membranes around the lungs, the heart and the abdomen has been known since the 1940s.
Who is Most at Risk of asbestos Exposure?
At some point in the lives of everyone, there is the possibility of exposure to asbestos. Low levels of asbestos are present all around us in the air, water and soil. Naturally occurring asbestos does not pose the kind of health threat it does in manufactured products for use in homes and buildings, on ships, in textiles, in milling and mining. Some of the workers typically facing risk of regular exposure to asbestos are:
- First responders, such as firefighters and emergency medical technicians
- Demolition workers
- Asbestos removal workers
- Drywall removers
- Automobile mechanics
What are the Protections to Help Prevent Exposure to Asbestos?
In the past, workers were largely left unprotected in a variety of environments that were heavily laden with airborne asbestos fibers. Workers would bring the fibers home on their clothing. The person at home doing the laundry would be exposed to breathing in these fibers through no fault of their own.
It is important for those regularly exposed to asbestos to use every precaution that is now known and for which the EPA has established strict regulations for protection. These include, but are not limited to, local exhaust ventilation, HEPA filters, negative pressure enclosures, control procedures for removal, waste disposal work practices, asbestos hazards and work protection. The air within homes, buildings and schools can be tested to find out if it poses any risk. Just because asbestos is present in a structure does not necessarily mean it must be removed. Today, demolition workers must be trained and certified to handle materials containing asbestos.
It has only been in recent decades the overall evidence has shown that there really is no safe level of asbestos exposure. For this reason, there are strict worker protection requirements as well as requirements to protect the public health, welfare and the environment. For those suffering from mesothelioma or the other diseases caused by exposure to asbestos through no fault of their own, advocacy on their behalf may be a helpful course to take.