Did you know that there are over 230,000 cases of asbestos-related diseases each year? Asbestos is a deadly carcinogen that many countries used for decades in residential and commercial buildings.
Some countries have banned its use, while others continue a more cautious approach. There are different types of asbestos that have greater health risks than others.
If you have an interest in knowing about the different types of asbestos and managing them, then keep reading on.
What Is Asbestos?
At its core, asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral. They are distinguished by their small fibres. It is also highly resistant to fire or other chemicals.
For that reason, you can find asbestos used in a variety of products before the health risks were exposed.
Asbestos is mostly mined outside of New Zealand. Parts of Africa have been mining asbestos since the 1800s, but the rest of the world quickly picked up steam when they realized the benefits of it. Currently, Russia remains at the top of the list for mining asbestos.
Types of Asbestos
There are five main types of asbestos. You can find them mainly in cement, roofs, walls, plastics, and insulation. The main types are:
Chrysotile, also known as white asbestos, is arguably the most common asbestos on this list. Globally, it accounts for almost 95% of all asbestos in buildings. There are many arguments surrounding chrysotile and its safety for use in constructing buildings.
In New Zealand, it was widely used for decades in walls, roofs, and even some paints. Up until the 1980s, asbestos was a common product at many construction sites.
On one hand, experts say that it should not cause any harm since it is encapsulated in cement. However, other experts state that asbestos is still a carcinogen and people remain exposed to it.
In most asbestos-related diseases and illnesses, chrysotile is the main culprit. You can find this white asbestos in:
Amosite is another common asbestos and is usually called brown asbestos. It is more potent and deadlier than its counterpart because it can easily be inhaled.
Most products with amosite in them are insulation, gaskets, plumbing, tiles, roofing, and more. However, crocidolite edges out all other competitors in health risks.
It is suspected that this blue asbestos holds the main responsibility for deadly illnesses and diseases. It is easily inhaled which makes it even more detrimental. You can find blue asbestos in cement, insulation, or tiles.
Anthophyllite is not very common, but it is still easily inhaled like amosite and crocidolite. You can also find it in cement or insulation.
Asbestos becomes a risk when you breathe in the fibres. Since there are different types of asbestos, the health risks vary between them. For example, brown asbestos is deadlier because it has smaller fibres.
These small fibres can more easily get stuck in your lungs and increase your risk for diseases. The International Agency for Research on Cancer classifies all types of asbestos as a Group 1 carcinogen.
It is largely known that asbestos can cause a variety of lung diseases and illnesses such as:
- Pleural disease
- Other lung cancers
Mesothelioma has close associations with asbestos since it is a rare disease and takes up to 40 years at times for presentation of the disease after exposure.
Some researchers have looked into other cancers from asbestos exposure. One study examined the risk of asbestos exposure for pleural malignancies, lung cancer, ovarian cancer, and asbestosis.
The researchers found that direct exposure increased someone’s likelihood of all the diseases in this study.
Signs of Asbestos
Asbestos is found in many different buildings and products. Asbestos in commercial buildings can cause a variety of negative health effects due to the expansive nature of these buildings and how many people they hold.
New Zealand found almost 4,000 different products that contained asbestos. Typically, asbestos in your home is not harmful unless it becomes airborne. If a home or building is in good standing condition, then the risk of exposure is much lower.
However, it pays to be aware of some common occurrences that your building or house may have asbestos. One of the main signs a building used asbestos is if it was constructed between the 1950s to 1980s.
During this time, asbestos was widely used in many products for constructing buildings. Homes and other commercial buildings that have undergone renovations since that time have likely been treated for asbestos. However, if you live somewhere that hasn’t had recent upgrades, then you have a higher risk of exposure.
Unfortunately, it is extremely difficult in locating asbestos just by looking at a building. If there is crumbling drywall or insulation or the building is older, it is best to have it checked out by professionals.
In order to differentiate between the types of asbestos, professionals look at the chemical makeup of their samples. The serpentine family includes chrysotile and looks like a sheet of crystals with curlier fibres.
The amphibole family takes on a more needle-like appearance. Amosite and crocidolite are two of the most common types of this asbestos. Because of its needle-like appearance, it has smaller fibres that when released, pose a greater risk for your health.
How to Manage Asbestos
One of the first steps in managing asbestos is going through asbestos testing. This process is best carried out by professional companies and workers who have the safety equipment and supplies for testing residential and commercial buildings for asbestos.
On-site testing typically takes samples of the area suspected of asbestos. It will also test other areas of the building and can include air testing.
Testing for airborne asbestos can alert residents and workers if they have had direct or continuous exposure to asbestos. Trained professionals can also test for different types of asbestos.
Asbestos removal requires qualified and skilled professionals. Demolition and removal of materials can release harmful fibres into the air. If these are breathed in without proper equipment, then it can cause negative health consequences.
Make sure you research companies and find a reputable source because you want to ensure that you are completely removing the asbestos before bringing residents or workers back into the building.
One of the major sources of asbestos is roofing. Professional companies can remove the roofing and replace it with asbestos-free materials.
Why is roofing an extremely dangerous hot spot for asbestos? In earlier years, roofing was usually made out of asbestos because it was cheap, fire-resistant, and easy to install.
Roofs take on the brunt of the weather and can become damaged unknowingly. When these types of roofs start to become more brittle or crack, then the asbestos fibres are airborne.
This releases asbestos into other structures of the home, soil, and water. If you are unsure if you have asbestos in your roof, then call on a professional asbestos roofing company.
The dangers of asbestos in the roof can lead to lasting damage in the surrounding area, your drinking water, and insulation.
Sealing or Enclosing
Asbestos removal does pose a risk for the environment and the safety of others. When you remove materials with asbestos, it releases the fibres into the air.
While workers execute safety concerns for their own health, the area around the structure can pose a risk for people. If the materials don’t require removal, there are other options that experts can do to ensure the safety of your health.
There are three other common strategies including:
A sealant includes applying paint over the top of the asbestos wall where flakes have started coming off. This can re-seal the asbestos and reduce the risk of airborne exposure.
Encapsulating involves coating the asbestos-contaminated area. The coating also works at hardening and enclosing the asbestos particles.
Lastly, enclosing works towards using a physical piece of material for stopping the spread of asbestos particles. You can use things such as plaster.
Keep in mind that there are only certain types of sealants that work towards stopping the airborne spread of asbestos. These are commercial grade sealants such as water-based or solvent-based sealants.
There are many types of asbestos that all pose a certain level of harm. A qualified and professional company can help determine what type of asbestos is in your residential or commercial building and the best course of action.
This typically involves testing, removal, or sealing. You don’t want to risk your health or others by removing asbestos on your own.
Contact us today, and let our professional and qualified team help you out.