Asbestos – today you know: The fibrous and very resistant mineral can trigger lung cancer and rib cell cancer, a so-called mesothelioma. Ovarian cancer is also possible.
Asbestos has been used for years: as a building material, for fire protection, for insulation. Because of the cancer risk, the use was initially severely restricted. Since 1993, asbestos has been largely banned in Germany.
But many people still live with the risk: because they came into contact with asbestos decades ago – as professionals, as a home improvement or more or less by chance. And there is still the risk of asbestos exposure because the carcinogenic mineral is still used in older buildings or appliances.
Asbestos: The most important thing in the near future
Asbestos can cause cancer, especially cancer of the rib and breast, the lungs and the larynx, and ovarian cancer is also possible. The mineral fibres enter the tissue and can remain there for years and decades.
Cancer can also occur when the asbestos exposure has been going on for many years. A further risk is a so-called asbestosis, a connective-tissue hardening and scarring of the lung tissue, which makes breathing more difficult.
Since 2003, asbestos has been banned in Australia, particularly in Adelaide. However, the asbestos threat still exists up till now, for example, in old buildings or equipment where the material has been treated as insulation or fire protection.
People who have exposed to asbestos are at risk: for example, as a do-it-yourself asbestos removal or simply by accident that disturb its presence.
History: What role did Asbestos play in the past, which has the mineral today?
Asbestos was already popular in the past because of its endurance to high temperature and was used primarily as building material and for heat and fire protection. Asbestos-containing products were used worldwide since the 19th century.
The mineral was found in brake linings and couplings, in electrical appliances, in machines and technical systems, in protective clothing, in heaters and, above all, as a building material in many buildings.
A typical example: roofs on garages, factory halls or gardening from asbestos. Even flower pots and garden bucket were made from asbestos cement in the middle of the 20th century.
The problem: in spite of the prohibition, many tons of asbestos-containing garbage still occur annually. The hazardous fibre is released during the disposal of old asbestos-containing materials after an asbestos removal Adelaide project, during demolition or renovation of older buildings.
However, many people do not know the asbestos danger anymore, and thus more or less inadvertently come into contact with the fibres.
Risk: What makes asbestos dangerous?
Already 70 years ago, asbestosis and lung cancer were recognised as occupational-related diseases. Later, studies showed that a pleural mesothelioma as a cancer of the breast skin is very often caused by asbestos contact between the affected persons. Also, the risk for laryngeal cancer is increasing. For some time it has been known that in women, ovarian cancer can also be triggered by asbestos fibres.
Asbestos is hazardous by its ability to release fibres. If they are inhaled, they can reach deep into the lungs with appropriate length and thickness and penetrate into the adjacent tissue, even into the abdomen and the ovaries.
However, asbestos is extremely stable: it practically does not dissolve in acids or alkalis. It melts only at very high temperatures.
And the body cannot biodegrade it: the lung and the surrounding tissue are hardly able to break down or excrete these fibres. Asbestos is the cause of chronic inflammation. The tissue reacts with scarring.
Chronic irritation as a trigger for tissue changes
The exact molecular mechanism that can lead to cancer in the long term has not yet been elucidated in all the details. Experts suspect today that immunological processes play a part, caused by the permanent stimulus of the fibre.
Are there any individual differences, are some people more sensitive than others?
Why some people fall ill and others, despite proven long-term work with asbestos, is hard to understand in individual cases. However, the following is true: If further risk factors are added, for example, tobacco smoke, the probability of tumour formation increases.
Asbestos sources: which fibres enter the body, which does not?
Asbestos is only dangerous when fibres are actually released. These fibres must also be comparatively small to get into the body.
How high the individual risk of asbestos depends on how exactly you worked or how it came into contact. For not every asbestos disturbance releases fibres that could be inhaled.
Bound asbestos cement has been widely used, for example, for roofs or facade claddings. This type of asbestos can remain relatively harmless. It is only hazardous when it is damaged or visibly weathered.
On the other hand, weakly bonded asbestos, which is used for insulation and as fire protection, is particularly dangerous. Asbestos textiles, such as old fire protection gloves, old gaskets and strings, asbestos panels in old electrical appliances or floor insulation, such as under old PVC floors, can also easily release fibres. The risk of long-term health problems also depends on the size, length and to a certain extent of a number of fibres released.
The federal states have asbestos guidelines, which also provide guidelines for the assessment of a risk and the rehabilitation. The Occupational Safety and Health Association also provides appropriate information.
Knowingly violating the regulations dealing with asbestos is a criminal offence.
Many asbestos contacts happen today but probably involuntarily: Because no one is known that one could come into contact with asbestos in the workplace in the one or other situation. Only the appropriate training and further training measures help, according to the authorities.
The prescribed conditions for dealing with asbestos also stipulate: strictly speaking, you can not renovate, repair or dispose of anything, which may contain asbestos. For asbestos is a high risk for home improvement – they normally do not have the possibility to comply with the prescribed protective measures.
At home, however, most of the asbestos contamination occur rather involuntarily because the asbestos source is not recognized as such.
Typical examples: When cleaning asbestos roofs or façade slabs, improper opening and removal of an old heater or when an old PVC floor is pulled out, fibres are released. Even with the disposal of old cement flower bulbs from the 60s or 70s, you can involuntarily come into contact with asbestos.
If you are not sure, you should consult professionals before you take further actions.
This professional advice can also relieve you: How dangerous an asbestos source is actually cannot be easily checked by the common person. Therefore, depending on the circumstance, it may be cheaper and easier to avoid the fibre release by a secure seal, then measure the fibre load and completely remove the asbestos source.
Even with household appliances, the fibre measurement is often not worth it: in case of doubt, it should be handed over to a competent party. Under no circumstances may asbestos-containing appliances, such as old heating ovens, simply be placed in the garbage or bulky waste.
Asbestos substitute fibres: How are they to be judged? Is there a risk?
As a substitute for asbestos, glass fibre, ceramic or mineral fibre products (glass wool, stone wool, ceramic fibres) have been on the market for several decades. These products were initially also conceivable as promoting cancer. The risk is less dependent on the material itself than on the fibre size and the degradability in the body.
In the production of modern plant and building materials, care was therefore taken to ensure that the hazardous fibre sizes are not produced as much as possible and that the fibres are degradable. Many experts, therefore, believe that at least the latest generation of asbestos substitute fibres is not a risk since it’s made of synthetic fibres.
Prevention, aftercare: What to do after asbestos was found?
When asbestos is found in a building, the best action to do is by communicate with a licensed asbestos removal Adelaide service provider. This expert will provide sufficient advice and necessary measures to keep the occupants safe from the fibre exposure.
This asbestos removal Adelaide contractor will perform a remediation to the contaminated property by following the safe work protocols. The asbestos removal Adelaide team can make sure that all steps are carried out in the best and efficient manner from the removal process until the reoccupation of the building.