Risks of Asbestos Exposure

January 21, 2021

Do you know what asbestos is, and what happens when you’re exposed to the substance? Depending on when your home was built, it may use asbestos as insulation or a building material. Unfortunately, asbestos can provide serious risks to your health. Here’s what you need to know about asbestos exposure in Erie, PA.

What is asbestos?

Asbestos is a flexible mineral fiber that’s resistant to electricity, heat and chemicals. It sounds ideal, but there’s a reason it’s now banned. Asbestos was used for years in manufacturing textiles, automotive parts and construction materials like insulation. For example, your vinyl tiles, siding, blankets, shingles and car brakes may all contain asbestos.

The problem with this fiber is that it is extremely fine, and breaks up easily. That makes it easy to inhale, which eventually builds up in your lungs and can cause health problems.

What are the risks of asbestos exposure?

Anyone who breathes in asbestos is at risk for exposure, but smokers are especially vulnerable to health risks. Here’s what you can expect if you’re exposed to the substance, particularly over a long period of time:

  • Asbestosis: Asbestosis causes damage to the small sacs of the lungs. Symptoms include shortness of breath, cough, chest pain and fingernails and toenails that look strangely round or wide. It usually doesn’t manifest physically until years after breathing in asbestos, and there’s no way to reverse the damage. Doctors may prescribe oxygen, and you may get on the lung transplant list.
  • Mesothelioma: Mesothelioma often manifests in patients who have lived near or worked in an asbestos mine. This is a type of cancer that affects the lungs, chest and abdomen. You might notice fluid buildup in the lungs and a decreased ability to take in air. Diagnostics usually include a pulmonary x-ray, biopsies and a CT scan. You might notice symptoms like pain in the rib cage, problems breathing, lumps in your abdomen and fatigue or constipation. Surgery, radiation and chemotherapy are all treatments, although their efficacy varies.
  • Lung cancer: Unfortunately, both asbestosis and mesothelioma can make it more likely that you’ll suffer from lung cancer. If you know you’ve been exposed to asbestos, make sure you monitor your health carefully.

Asbestos is common—in fact, you’ve probably breathed some in at some point in your life. Low levels are unlikely to have the same kind of effects that major exposure does. However, if you spend a lot of time around construction and demolition—even if that’s in your own home—you’re at increased risk of exposure. While it’s banned by the EPA in many materials, there’s no way to completely avoid it.

If you are concerned about asbestos exposure in Erie, PA or Buffalo, NY, reach out to the experts at Ahold of Mold Environmental today. Our team performs asbestos inspections and testing, so you know whether your home or building is a source of concern before you take remediation measures. We look forward to helping you ensure your property is safe and free of asbestos.

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