Occupational exposure is the number one cause of asbestos-related disease. Exposure to asbestos can happen anywhere asbestos is present. However, some occupations/workplaces are at greater risk of exposure, including environmental contractors who work in asbestos abatement.
Despite advancements in workplace safety, asbestos exposure continues to pose a significant danger in the construction industry. This hazardous mineral, once widely used for its heat resistance and insulation properties, has been linked to life-threatening diseases, including mesothelioma and lung cancer. Today, it is crucial for construction companies to remain vigilant and take proactive measures to protect their workers from the hidden dangers of asbestos.
How exposure happens
If you inhale or ingest asbestos fibers, you can experience health problems. No level of asbestos exposure is considered safe. Many common building materials used in the past contained asbestos. Whenever the asbestos is disturbed by cutting, drilling, sanding, or other methods, microscopic asbestos fibers enter the air and can be inhaled. These fibers can remain airborne for several hours, and anyone nearby is in danger of inhaling the fibers that then become trapped in the respiratory tract.
Health problems from asbestos exposure
After asbestos fibers are inhaled and become lodged in the lining of the lungs, they can cause inflammation and make breathing difficult. The fibers can lead to lung scarring, genetic mutations, and even cancer. One of the greatest risks from asbestos exposure is mesothelioma. Sadly, around 2,000 to 3,000 Americans are diagnosed with mesothelioma each year, and approximately 10,000 Americans die from an asbestos-related disease annually. More than 200,000 U.S. citizens are living with an asbestos-related condition.
How can environmental contractors work safely around asbestos?
OSHA standards require employers to monitor employees’ exposure to asbestos and provide risk and awareness training. Airborne asbestos levels are never to exceed the legal limits. There is no safe level of asbestos exposure, but asbestos exposure limits for environmental contractors can be reduced by regulating work practices and wearing protective equipment. You can learn more about controlling asbestos risks from these OSHA resources.
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