dangers of asbestos


Fire Safety and Asbestos Exposure

Prior to the late 1980s, the use of asbestos was so widespread that nearly every home was made with asbestos-containing materials. Although it was common for industrial use as well, asbestos was utilized in more than 3,000 construction and consumer products. Some of the most utilized asbestos-containing products included drywall, cement, insulation, floor and ceiling tiles, paint and roofing material.

Fires that occur in homes built with asbestos-containing materials can provide a serious risk for those in the area. The slightest disturbance to asbestos-containing materials can cause asbestos fibres to become airborne. Once in the air, these microscopic fibres can easily be inhaled by those nearby. Because of this, it is very important to take all necessary precautions to avoid asbestos exposure after a fire.  

Exposure to asbestos has been linked to a fatal cancer known as pleural mesothelioma. Although there are no immediate side effects after being exposed, pleural mesothelioma can slowly evolve without ever showing signs of development. In most cases, symptoms of pleural mesothelioma will take between 20 and 50 years to arise, at which time the cancer has likely progressed to an advanced stage. The average mesothelioma life span following diagnosis ranges between 4 and 18 months.

For people who already have (or think they might have) mesothelioma, help with resources and support is available from: Mesothelioma Cancer

This organisation is dedicated to reach and assist ever last sufferer of this unfortunate disease.

Fire Safety Precautions

The safest way to avoid asbestos exposure during or after a fire is to assume that asbestos-containing materials have been damaged. In order to avoid exposure, a number of preventative steps can be taken. One thing a person can do is to reduce the occurrence of airborne asbestos fibers. By spraying water on burned objects and areas, the fibres are less likely to float in the air. Another step that can be taken is to call a professional to test the air for asbestos.

Firefighters are often at risk for asbestos exposure due to the nature of their job. For firefighters, a “self-contained breathing apparatus, or simply BA” (positive pressure) is designed to provide protection against gases, dust and toxic substances such as asbestos.  A BA set fitted with a high efficiency particulate air filter (HEPA) cartridge works best however many firefighters are tempted to take this kind of protection off during the overhaul period and once a fire is brought under control. However, researchers have found that levels of airborne asbestos can remain very high even after the fire is put out.  As such, it is very important for firefighters to wear a BA throughout the entire job.


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