Asbestos: What You Should Know
Asbestos was once used in Australia in more than 3,000 different products including fibro, flue pipes, drains, roofs, gutters, brakes, clutches and gaskets. Asbestos becomes a health risk when its fibres are released into the air and breathed in. Breathing in asbestos fibres can cause asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma.
Because of its properties, which are described as being either ‘non-friable or ‘friable’, asbestos was seen as being very useful for building products.
Non-friable or bonded asbestos products are solid and you can’t crumble them in your hand—the asbestos has been mixed with a bonding compound such as cement. If non-friable asbestos is damaged or degraded it may become friable and will then pose a higher risk of fibre release.
Friable asbestos is a material containing asbestos that when dry, is in powder form or may be crushed or pulverised into powder form using your hand. This material poses a higher risk of exposing people to airborne asbestos fibres. Friable asbestos was commonly used in industrial applications rather than the home, although loose-fill asbestos has been found in homes in NSW and the ACT, where it was sold as ceiling and wall insulation.
There are higher risks though in industrial workplaces such as mines, shipyards, construction sites, and railroads since there are higher degrees of asbestos use. Thus, people who have worked in these places are likely to have higher risks of contracting asbestos diseases. This is also the reason why mesothelioma, laryngeal cancer or asbestosis are considered as occupational diseases.Asbestos diseases will only develop in relation to the degree of exposure. There should be enough concentration of asbestos in the air we breathe before we even begin to develop asbestos disease silently. If such concentration is not met, the likelihood that a person will contract the disease is very low thus, even if you were around a house with dilapidated roofing made of asbestos, that is still not enough reason for your body to react violently. Companies who practice regulation of the degree of asbestos fiber in the atmosphere of the worksites are at very low risks of jeopardizing the health of their workmen.
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