|What is asbestos? |
Asbestos is the name used for several naturally occurring minerals that have been used for centuries as a soundproofer and heat insulator. Some of its uses have been to insulate residential and commercial buildings' heating pipes and soundproofing in schools' music rooms and gymnasiums. Some of the more unusual uses have been for fireproofing of curtains in theatres, in paints and in firefighters' gloves.
The current federal definition of asbestos is the asbestiform varieties of chrysotile (serpentine), crocidolite (riebeckite), amosite (cummingtonite/grunerite), anthophyllite, tremolite and actinolite.
Where is asbestos found?
- Water or heating pipe/duct wrap
- Paint or plaster
- Soundproofing walls or ceilings in music rooms, auditoriums and gymnasiums
- Fire protection equipment like blankets or gloves
Is asbestos dangerous?
The Environmental Protection Agency has found asbestos to cause cancer and so regulated how it must be handles when removed or repaired. When asbestos is not disturbed or is in good condition, it is not considered a health risk. When its tiny fibers become airborne through demolition or remodeling, it becomes a health risk. The tiny fibers, which may stay in the air for up to three days, can become lodged in the lungs and reduce the lungs' ability to function properly. If asbestos is removed or disturbed it should be done by a state-certified contractor. Workers should use protective clothing while handling asbestos and minimize any asbestos exposure to people or property during the process.
What are some of the health effects of asbestos exposure?
Exposure to airborne asbestos particles is a potential health risk to those breathing in the fibers. Continued exposure, especially long-term, increases the risk and amount of fibers that remain in the lungs. Fibers embedded in lung time over time may cause serious lung diseases, including:
- Asbestosis, a serious, progressive, long-term non-cancer disease of the lungs. It is caused by inhaling asbestos fibers that irritate lung tissues and cause the tissues to scar. The scarring makes it hard for oxygen to get into the blood. Symptoms of asbestosis include shortness of breath and a dry, crackling sound in the lungs while inhaling. There is no effective treatment for asbestosis.
- Lung cancer, which is the leading cause of death related to asbestos exposure. People who work in the mining, milling and manufacturing of asbestos, and those who use asbestos and its products are more likely to develop lung cancer than the general population. The most common symptoms of lung cancer are coughing and a change in breathing. Other symptoms include shortness of breath, persistent chest pains, hoarseness and anemia. People who have been exposed to asbestos and are also exposed to some other cancer-causing product, such as cigarette smoke, have a much greater risk of developing lung cancer than people who have only been exposed to asbestos.
- Mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer that is found in the thin lining or membrane of the lung, chest, abdomen and heart; almost all cases are linked to exposure to asbestos. This disease may not show up until many years after asbestos exposure.
Many of these diseases don't appear right away, but show up years later.
Who regulates asbestos handling?
Both the EPA and the Missouri Department of Natural Resources have regulations regarding asbestos handling. In Kansas City, Mo., both of those agencies have delegated the enforcement of those regulations to the City of Kansas City, Mo., Health Department. The Department also enforces a local regulation. Single family owner-occupied residences are not regulated. Regulation of all other buildings beings when 10 linear feet or 16 square feet or more of asbestos is being removed or disturbed, and a City-issued permit is required.
Where can I find more information?
Contact the City of Kansas City, Mo., Health Department's Air Quality program at (816) 513-6314, or visit one of the following Web sites (please note that these may open in a new browser window; if you have a popup blocker enabled, it may interfere with following these links):
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