Understanding the dangers of asbestos

Asbestos, a heat-resistant, fibrous silicate mineral has many purposes. It can be used as a fire-resistant or insulating material. It can be woven into materials, too. The trouble is that it has the potential to be extremely dangerous if inhaled.

It is most common for asbestos fibers to enter the body through inhalation. At that point, the fibers get trapped in the mucous membranes of the throat and nose. Others go on to go deep into the lungs. Still others enter the digestive tract. While those caught in the nose, throat, stomach or lungs may be expelled in many cases, there is also a chance for them to become caught and trapped inside the body.

The most dangerous form of asbestos is its friable state. This means that it can easily crumble in your hands and release fibers into the air. Asbestos sprayed onto insulation is highly friable, making it one of the most dangerous forms to come into contact with.

There are some forms of asbestos you can come into contact with that are likely harmless, like asbestos in floor tiles, cabinet tops, fire doors, shingles and other items. Unless these items are disassembled, damaged or disturbed, they are unlikely to release the fibers that could cause harm if breathed in.

Asbestos can cause several illnesses including:

  • Asbestosis
  • Lung cancer
  • Mesothelioma

Today, there are strict restrictions on the use of asbestos in workplaces, knowing that many people exposed to these fibers develop mesothelioma. If you've been exposed in the past, remember that you do have a right to seek out workers' compensation and support for your illness.

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