Asbestos poisoning - still a lot to suffer
I want to start with a sad story, so that you could understand how important this is. Many of you already may know but it's better to give a reminder.
Robert Hamilton died of Mesothelioma in January 2012. He was 66 at the time of death. His job was of an assistant foreman at I.C.I. in Grangemouth. He was there for over 25 years. He was diagnosed as a case of Malignant Mesothelioma in July 2006 after long 1 year struggling with cough and being treated as pneumonia, TB etc. When diagnosed, he was told that he’s going to live only for 6 to 9 months.
In his work, he didn’t come into direct contact with asbestos or any work related to asbestos exposure. But around him there were maintenance and refurbishment going on. At that time they didn’t know anything about asbestos poisoning. For this there was no protection for asbestos exposure.
A smiling, loving person full of enthusiasm was turned down by the lethal effect of asbestos poisoning. This story was taken from Health and Safety executive (hse)'s site.
What is Asbestos?
Asbestos is a mineral. It’s a naturally found mineral. Very thin fibers of asbestos are durable, poor conductor of electricity and heat. It also remains stable against chemicals. Asbestos is so thin that it is almost invisible and easily floats in the air.
As the asbestos fibers are very thin, they can be transformed into various shaped substance like cloth, rope to use various purpose like use as an insulator or use in such things where durability is expected or to be used as protector from fire etc. Some uncommon properties made the asbestos a popular substance within a very short period to time and it took very little time to be used by the people of whole world.
Asbestos is in use for countless purpose for last 4500 years. Initially it was used as woven materials like shrouds, lamp wicks etc. Gradually its use expanded into insulation system like in pipe, boiler, engine etc. It became the part of Industrial Revolution. Its use didn’t remain there. Until the later part of twentieth century, asbestos was used in buildings, ceiling, floor and walls, electric appliances etc.
Asbestos was also used in various products found in home where protection from heat and electricity was essential like- dryers, irons, electric wiring, furnace etc. Thus asbestos became an indispensable part of our life.
As the bad effect of asbestos started to come out in light, the uses started to decrease. Specially use of asbestos in places it is more usual to come in contact of people like, floor tiles, roofing, pipe insulation etc. Now asbestos is being replaced by other materials as it's use is strictly restricted by government of concerned countries. For the last two decades of twentieth century, the use of asbestos has been banned in most of the sectors. So the buildings that built before 2000 are likely to have asbestos and after that, it's presence in the buildings could hardly be found.
Where is asbestos found?
Where can asbestos be found? What's the benefit of knowing it? You should know this avoid unwanted exposure of asbestos. Naturally it is available in soil and rock. That's why mining of asbestos was a poplar act three to four decade back and the massive exposure to asbestos occurred during that period among the people working in that environment. People who are gardening can easily exposed to the asbestos if that soil contains asbestos. So need to know about it.
Demolition of old building built before 2000 will pose the danger of asbestos releasing in the air which will be inhaled by the people who comes in contact of that environment.
Day to day used appliances, commonly used products like coffee pot, toaster, dryer, some talc powder, toilet cistern, some fertilizers, various insulators can have asbestos, thus putting the users to the risk of asbestos. Hey! Don't be frightened. This is just to get an idea where asbestos can be found.
Work related asbestos sources are workers at mining field, chemical plants, power plants, shipyard, crane operators, inspectors, foreman etc all are more likely to be the victim of asbestos exposure.
What is asbestos poisoning?
The term asbestos poisoning is used for any health problem that is associated with asbestos exposure. Asbestos is a fibrous and very friable mineral. When it is damaged or exposed, it fragments into very smaller pieces that is not visible with naked eye. These fragments become air borne droplet and can be inhaled easily by people who exposed to this atmosphere. Long term exposure usually leads to the development health problem specially lung related health problem. This is asbestos poisoning.
Health problems associated asbestos poisoning/exposure:
- Pleural Mesothelioma
- Peritoneal Mesothelioma
- Pericardial Mesothelioma
- Asbestos related Lung cancer
- Asbestos wart
- Cancer of the various part of the gut
What is the danger?
Asbestos poisoning is a very dangerous thing. Why? Already we know that asbestos exposure leads to asbestos poisoning. Now exposure to asbestos causes no immediate effect. So whenever you are exposed to asbestos, you won't understand that you've exposed to a potentially lethal naturally occurring mineral. For this, there is every chance of being exposed to this asbestos more and more as it happens sub consciously. Only 20-50 years after exposure, effects of asbestos poisoning will start to come and when they come, there is nothing to do about that. That's why asbestos poisoning is very dangerous.
When asbestos is inhaled from the atmosphere, it usually get trapped inside the lungs. After trapping inside the lungs, it causes scarring of lung parenchyma leading to fibrosis of the lungs. This lung fibrosis ultimately leads to decreased lung function.
When asbestos exposure is more, it affects the outer lining of the lungs causing thickening of it. Sometimes it gets so thick that it reduces lung compliance leading to shortness breathing, chest tightness etc.
Asbestos related lung cancer:
Asbestos poisoning can cause lung cancer that is usually caused by other causative agent like smoking. Bronchogenic carcinoma is one of them. This is one of the most lethal cancer in the world.
Mesothelioma is the cancer of the cells of the lining membrane of Lung, digestive tract and heart. Cancer that affects lung lining is known as pleural mesothelioma, one that affects lining of the digestive tract is known as peritoneal mesothelioma and one that affects the lining membrane of heart is known as pericardial mesothelioma. It's a rare from of cancer. But once it's diagnosed then there's nothing can be done to cure it.
Asbestos poisoning facts:
The lethal effects of asbestos poisoning are known to all. Many countries are imposing ban against using asbestos. So it's good news that, random asbestos use is reduced to a substantially low level. Where the use of it is inevitable, protective measures are being taken. But still now about 4000 thousand death a year occur worldwide due to asbestos poisoning. Why?
First, asbestos use is banned at around two decades back. Some where it's even after 2000. So before that period (if we consider that after banning, it's reduced almost completely) asbestos exposure existed at a significant level. But the effects of asbestos poisoning may take 20-50 years to appear. Thus if we take the year 2000 as point when asbestos exposure brought down to a very low level then we'll get asbestos poisoning related cases at least up to year 2050. Still a long way to go.
Second, even we stopped using asbestos, but we had to maintain old buildings which can easily cause asbestos to release in the environment. Again demolition of old buildings also causes asbestos release in the environment. So these are posing extra threat of continual exposure to asbestos till today.
Third and finally, not all the country is posing ban against asbestos. Especially people in the developing country and under developed country are in the greatest risk. We have to fight asbestos poisoning globally making it an universal issue. Awareness about asbestos poisoning is necessary because still there's a lot to suffer.