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
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:
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.