Asbestos: What It Is and What You Need to Know

Asbestos is a naturally occurring substance that was once commonly used in building materials. It is now known to cause serious health problems, so it is vital to be aware of it and take steps to avoid exposure.

This article will discuss what asbestos is, where it can be found, and the health risks associated with it. We will also provide some tips for protecting yourself from exposure.

What is Asbestos?

Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that was commonly used in construction materials for its fire-resistant properties. Because of its fibrous nature, asbestos is particularly harmful when inhaled.

Where is Asbestos Found?

Asbestos can be found in older buildings in insulation, floor tiles, roofing materials, and ceiling tiles. Although it is no longer permitted for these applications, asbestos was also used in automobiles and air ducts.

Some of its primary uses were:

  • Fireproofing
  • Heat resistance
  • Insulation
  • Flooring
  • Roofing

Asbestos Mining

During the 1960s and 1970s, before research uncovered its dangers, asbestos was heavily mined in several parts of the United States. Following conclusive research that connected asbestos exposure to several terminal respiratory issues, the last asbestos open mine was shut down in 2012.

What are the Health Risks of Asbestos?

Asbestos exposure has been linked to several serious health problems, including lung cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestosis. These diseases can take years to develop, so it is important to be aware of the risks and take steps to avoid exposure.

There is no safe level of asbestos exposure, so it is essential to avoid it. If you suspect you have been exposed, it is critical to see a doctor and get tested.

Handle With Care

With increased awareness of the dangers of asbestos, its use has been heavily regulated, and efforts have been made to remove it from existing structures. It is important to note that asbestos does not pose a risk unless disturbed, causing fibers to become airborne and potentially inhaled.

Examples of such disturbances include:

  • Demolition
  • Renovation/remodeling of old buildings
  • Breaking down walls with asbestos built up inside

Therefore, it is important to consult professionals for proper testing and removal procedures to avoid potential health hazards.

Asbestos, Particulate Matter & Air Quality

In addition to its direct health concerns, asbestos can also negatively impact air quality by contributing to particulate matter pollution.

Individuals need to educate themselves on the dangers of asbestos and take precautions to reduce exposure in their homes, workplaces, and during unexpected events.

Large-scale natural disasters, such as hurricanes, earthquakes, and tycoons, can often cause an alarming spike in asbestos concentration, contributing to the PM concentrations and affecting regional air quality. This puts residents and nearby regions at risk of respiratory-related illnesses and diseases.

How Can I Protect Myself from Asbestos?

Classified by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as one of the first ”hazardous air pollutants” under their air toxics program, asbestos comes with strict guidelines for handling and reducing its exposure to the general population.

There are several things that you can do to protect yourself from asbestos exposure:

  • If you live in an older home, have it tested for asbestos before undergoing any renovation projects.
  • If asbestos is found, hire a professional to remove it safely.
  • Be aware of the risk of particulate matter pollution and take steps to avoid exposure, such as wearing a mask when outdoors.
  • If you work with asbestos-containing materials, take precautions to avoid exposure, such as wearing personal protective equipment.
  • If you think you have been exposed to asbestos, see a doctor and get tested.

By being aware of the risks and taking steps to avoid exposure, you can protect yourself and your family from the dangers of asbestos.

Consult Professional

Professional testing and removal may be necessary in cases of high risk or contamination. Overall, taking steps to limit asbestos exposure can significantly improve air quality and protect public health.

Stay Informed About Asbestos with Air Quality Monitors

When it comes to air quality, particulate matter is a major concern. From dust and pollen to chemicals and toxins, these tiny particles can have harmful effects on our health, including increasing the risk of respiratory diseases.

While PurpleAir air quality monitors do not directly measure asbestos, it is helpful to know the particulate levels in your area. This knowledge allows you to identify potential health risks to minimize exposure.

Monitor the Particulate Matter levels around the world with our free, real-time PurpleAir Map or join PurpleAir's mission to make air quality data accessible to everyone by investing in an air quality monitor for your home. 

Together, we can be informed and make changes in our daily habits and the community to improve air quality.