For many decades, it has been known that asbestos can cause cancer. A limited ban was placed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on asbestos products and their use in the 1970s. These limitations left room for asbestos to continue to pose a health risk with current products that can affect health for the next 40 years or more.
Where is asbestos found?
Asbestos laden new products that continue the threat include brake linings, window caulk, electrical panels, fire proofing and prevention materials, and plastics –such as electrical cladding, terminal boards and blocks, hard floor tiles, missile casings. In addition to new products, asbestos can still be found in buildings and products from the 1970s and earlier.
What is the risk?
Dr. Jae Y. Kim, chief of thoracic surgery at the City of Hope cancer center in Duate, California, says, “There is no known safe threshold of asbestos exposure. As far as we know, even significant amounts in a short period can cause long-term health problems.”
Who is at risk?
Homeowners remodeling their homes, if built in the 1970s or earlier, should have their homes checked for asbestos materials before starting any remodeling projects. If found, only abatement professionals should remove the materials to avoid spreading fibers throughout the house. Mechanics doing brake work on cars, planes, busses, and trains can be exposed via the dust created. Even workers who clean industrial areas that might contain asbestos are susceptible to breathing the fibers.
Inform your doctor of exposures
If you have been exposed to asbestos fibers, let your doctor know so you can be monitored for any signs of an asbestos-related disease over time. Exposure can cause asbestosis, which scars lungs and increases cancer risk, lung cancer, or mesothelioma – a fatal form of cancer caused almost exclusively by asbestos exposure. It may take 50 years from exposure to diagnosis, so be aware of any exposure risks and take precautions now. What may seem harmless now may be deadly later.