Asbestos is a mineral that is fibrous by nature. It is fire resistant, chemical resistant and very strong. It can be easily woven into cloth to make fireproof clothing. Despite being such a useful substance, it is very hazardous to the employees and laborers, who work with it. It leads to various diseases like asbestosis, fibrosis, asbestos warts and even, cancer. Mesothelioma, a killer disease, is the most terrible of all the diseases caused by exposure to asbestos. Due to this, asbestos use, mining and manufacture were banned in many countries a few decades ago. But, there are still many countries like India and china, which have not imposed a complete ban on asbestos. Even those developed countries, which have banned asbestos, are still reaping the troubles of asbestos exposure. This is because the diseases caused due to asbestos exposure have a long latency period. For instance, mesothelioma may take even 40 years to develop after asbestos exposure.
One problem with asbestos is what when it is mined and manufactured a lot of asbestos dust and asbestos fibers are released into the atmosphere. Since these are light and invisible, the laborers easily inhale them. The trouble starts after this, as these fibers are very harmful when inhaled. For instance, when the asbestos fibers come in contact with the mesothelium lining, they react adversely with the cells leading to tumors. The tumors may appear in body parts like lungs, hearts and abdomen. This disease is called as mesothelioma. These tumors may also spread throughout the body, finally leading to dearth.
The following industries have high risk for exposure to asbestos:
Contractors or construction workers:
Since asbestos is very strong, flexible and fireproof, it is a highly preferred material in all types of construction work. In some way or in some form, asbestos is present in paints, cement, tubes, pipes, and sheets and so on. Not only the laborers but also residents, school children in schools, officers in offices and all others face a risk of asbestos exposure.
In yester years, firefighters wore clothing woven with asbestos. This fireproof clothing gave rise to various health hazards due to asbestos exposure. Even now when old buildings collapse due to fire, firefighters become exposed to asbestos.
The boilers and generators of power plants are mostly lined with asbestos. This is done to protect it from intense heat and sudden fires.
Mechanics work with brakes and clutch linings, which contain asbestos. Thus, they get exposed to asbestos. Even though asbestos is banned now, the old vehicles still contain such asbestos parts.
Minerals like vermiculite and talc contain asbestos. Thus, not only the asbestos miners but miners of these minerals too will suffer from asbestos exposure.
Most of the components in ships like hot water pipes, incinerators insulation, boilers and steam pipes contain asbestos. Since asbestos is fire proof, chemical proof, strong and flexible, it is popularly used in ship components. Therefore, shipyard workers have high risk of developing asbestos related diseases like mesothelioma. During the Second World War, there was widespread use of asbestos and in US alone, more than 4 million people worked in shipyards. Overhauling and destruction of old ships also releases a lot of asbestos dust and is thus, very hazardous.
Just like automotives and ships, railroads also made use of asbestos in steam pipes, boilers, gaskets, brakes and clutches.
Asbestos is expected to be present in the thermal Insulation Substances used in steel mills.
It is expected that many parts in the oil refineries also contain asbestos, as the rate of mesothelioma is very high among the refinery workers.
While this gives us an in-depth knowledge about how asbestos affects the various areas of workplace, this is not conclusive. It is important to take proper care and be vigilant to prevent asbestos exposure.
The writer is a freelance writer and research expert at a medical research firm. To know more about mesothelioma & asbestos, log on to http://www.rarehope.com
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