Asbestos has been used as an effective insulation and building material in homes for decades but it can cause major health problems for those who come into contact with it. We look at what exactly asbestos is and how dangerous it is to your health.
Asbestos is a naturally occurring silicate mineral characterised by thin fibrous crystals. In the 19th century it was mined extensively for its properties, including: strength, fire resistance, electricity and affordability. The most commonly mined forms were white asbestos (chrysotile), blue asbestos (crocidolite) and brown asbestos (amosite).
Uses and risks of asbestos
Building and electrical insulation were two common uses of asbestos right up until the late 20th century, before its health hazards became more publicly known. You can live in a house with asbestos without incurring any damage to your health if it is left undisturbed. It is only when it is damaged or exposed that asbestos fibres become harmful to humans. If there is a risk of these fibres being inhaled, they must be professionally removed.
Considerations when dealing with asbestos
There are a number of factors to take into account when weighing up the health risks of asbestos, such as:
- The amount of asbestos present.
- The type and size of the asbestos fibres. Are they small enough to breathe in?
- Length of exposure.
The greatest risk comes from being exposed to a high concentration of asbestos over a long period of time. Workers involved in manufacturing materials containing asbestos are much more likely to contract asbestos-related diseases.
Asbestos in your home
Because asbestos has been used so extensively in buildings, it is common for large quantities of it to remain in older homes. Anyone who renovates an older home should be aware that there is a high chance of uncovering materials containing asbestos by cutting or drilling, which releases fibres into the air.
Asbestos receives bad press because when the fibres are breathed in, they can build up in your lung tissue over time, causing a host of non-malignant and malignant diseases such as:
- Asbestosis, a scarring in the lungs from breathing in asbestos fibres.
- Non-malignant pleural conditions, e.g pleural plaques.
- Lung cancer.
- Mesothelioma, a rare malignant cancer.
If you are worried that you may have asbestos in your roof, talk to Allied today. We can arrange a licensed asbestos removalist and provide you with a brand new roof that’s safer for you and your family’s health.