Archive for the ‘asbestos’ Category

Friability and Asbestos

Thursday, March 15th, 2012

In the 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s, uses of asbestos in home construction was common. Because of its high tensile strength and resistant properties, thousands of asbestos products have been used widely in the construction industry, especially during this time period. As more and more of these homes are being renovated, the risk of exposure to asbestos is a reality that construction workers, homeowners and do-it-yourselfers should be aware of. Preventing exposure during asbestos disposal begins with understanding the difference between friable and non-friable asbestos.

When asbestos is friable, it exists in a form that can easily be broken into pieces, releasing fibers into the air. Acoustical plaster, asbestos paper, pipe coverings, insulation, and asbestos -containing patching compounds are all examples of friable asbestos. Non-friable asbestos, on the other hand, are not easy to break, and as a result, the asbestos fibers are less likely to be released into the air. When left undisturbed, non-friable asbestos may not endanger human health. That’s why asbestos experts advise that certain asbestos containing materials be left alone when remodeling rather than being removed. Examples of non-friable asbestos products include roofing felt, asbestos cement, vinyl flooring, and base flashing.

The EPA identifies two categories of non-friable asbestos. Category 1 non-friable have a binding material that locks the fibers together, and are therefore not likely to become friable. Category 2 non-friable materials, though, are more subject to damage by frequent use and natural deterioration over time. Category 2 non-friable materials are more likely to become friable due to weathering conditions. However, circumstances can also influence whether an asbestos-containing material can become friable during demolition or construction. These factors involve methods of ventilation, demolition and asbestos disposal, as well as how the material itself was made.  The EPA website has guidelines for how to address both  friable and non-friable materials. For more information about asbestos and mesothelioma, visit Mesothelioma FAQ

 

Asbestos in the Drinking Water?

Thursday, January 12th, 2012

When reading material about the uses of asbestos and mesothelioma-linked materials, you will mostly encounter facts about asbestos in the environment that can become airborne and lead to mesothelioma. However, largely because of the decay of cement water mains and the erosion of natural deposits, asbestos can also contaminate drinking water. Water suppliers are required by law to conduct routine monitoring to make sure that water levels are below the maximum contaminant level (MCL). According to the EPA, the MCL for asbestos in drinking water is 7 MFL. While MFL is not defined in the Basic Information about Asbestos in Drinking Water on the EPA website, the National Primary Drinking Water Regulations, as printed in the EPA publication, “Water On Tap: What You Need to Know,” define MFL as millions of fibers per liter. This document, updated in 2003, identifies the risk of developing benign intestinal polyps.

In Asbestos in Drinking-water, the Background document for development of WHO Guidelines for Drinking-water Quality the World Health Organization reports that most of the US population consumes drinking water with a concentration lower than 1 MFL. Research studying the effects of ingesting asbestos have yet to show a significant risk of cancer from ingesting asbestos. At the same time, the scientific community is concerned about possible risks and continues to research the area.

The EPA recommends finding out about your local source for drinking water. Numbers to call will appear on your water bill or telephone book’s government listings. If you contact your water utility company, they can provide you with a copy of the required annual consumer confidence report or water quality report that will give you information about the quality of water in your area. If your water supply is private, the EPA recommends that you contact the nearest community water system. For more information about asbestos and mesothelioma, please complete our online form.

Overview of Asbestos and Its Uses

Wednesday, December 28th, 2011

Asbestos is a fibrous mineral that is formed in the earth and removed by mining. It has been used for over 2000 years in a variety of products, most taking advantage of asbestos’ fire-resistant properties. The material has been used in many countries for a variety of purposes. In the United States until the 1970’s, asbestos was commonly used in building materials such as floor tile, insulation, and roofing materials. Use in the US met a seemingly permanent decline in the 1970’s because of research that showed the health risks associated with uses of asbestos. Today, the leading producers of asbestos are Russia and China. The main consumers of asbestos products are China, India, Russia and Thailand.

There are six known types of asbestos which fall into two categories. The amphibole group includes five of the six types: amosite (brown), crocidolite (blue), anthophyllite, tremolite and actinolite. The second group (the sepentine group), is a category of one, including only crysotile, or white asbestos. The properties and risks associated with each type depends on the nature of the fiber and how friable the material is. Friability refers to how easily the material can be launched into the air and potentially enter the lungs.

Although asbestos use has diminished greatly since the 1970’s, people the material is found in many structures. That’s because many of the buildings and structures that were made using asbestos materials still stand today. In homes built before the 1970’s, asbestos was used as insulation to help resist fire damage. Asbestos was often added to cement to increase it’s strength, and as a component of insulation boards, fireplace lining, roofing tiles and floor tiles. Applications that were particularly dangerous involved using more naturally friable forms of asbestos in applications that were more easily disturbed, such as in lagging and acoustic wall and ceiling “popcorn.” Because these materials still exist in many homes today, it is important for homeowners to be informed, especially if they plan to remodel or repair their home. In many cases, leaving the material undisturbed is the best course of action unless the remodel or repair is handled by an asbestos abatement expert.

Asbestos was used starting in the 1940’s in shipyards as insulation around pipes. Because of it’s light weight, low cost and resistance to heat and corrosion, the material was considered ideal until research linked the material to incidence of mesothelioma. Sadly, some companies continued to expose workers to these materials, even after the risks were well-known. Because of mesothelioma’s long latency period, many of these workers did not see health problems until recently. As a result, some people who are being diagnosed with mesothelioma are entitled to legal compensation. For more information on these or other mesothelioma-related topics, please visit our Mesothelioma and Asbestos FAQ or fill out our online form.

 

The History of Asbestos

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011

Although archaeologists have found evidence of asbestos almost 3000 years ago, the first known common uses of asbestos occurred in ancient Greece. The fibers were frequently woven into the clothing made for slaves until the fire resistant properties of the material became known. At that point, asbestos material quickly became regarded almost as valuable as gold. The Greeks also used asbestos fibers in royal clothing, table linens, and insulation for ovens. The ancient Romans were also aware of the material’s properties, using asbestos in construction, head dressings, and in table linens. The Romans would toss soiled napkins into the fire and then remove them to reveal the clean surface. The dangers of asbestos were also documented at this time. In fact, a Roman doctor named Pliny the Elder noted that the slaves who worked in asbestos mines developed a “sickness of the lung” which may well have been mesothelioma.

The history of asbestos shows that uses of asbestos began to decline after the fall of Rome. It was not until the Industrial Revolution in the late 1800s that use of asbestos really took off on a global scale. As more factories were opened, asbestos was commonly used as insulation against the high temperatures generated by the steam-powered machines. Asbestos was also used to insulate pipes, turbines, ovens and kilns. As the demand for asbestos increased, more asbestos mines were opened, and by the turn of the century, doctors were reporting illnesses of the lungs in mine workers. However, these early health concerns about the material did not slow its use as asbestos was continuously used as an insulator in the construction of trains, ships, and automobiles. It was also used in housing construction in siding, cement and insulation.

As early as the 1920’s, medical research began to show a link between asbestos and certain types of cancer. Some asbestos manufacturers took actions to hide the truth about mesothelioma-linked materials from public awareness. However, in the 1970’s the dangers of asbestos finally became known to the public, and the U.S., along with many other countries, began to create and enforce regulations that limited the use of asbestos in the interest of public health.

Unfortunately, people who worked in the industries affected by mesothelioma did not find out about their own illness until decades later. Mesothelioma victims often experience no symptoms until decades after their exposure to asbestos. By the time a diagnosis is made, victims of mesothelioma sometimes have only months to live. While taking legal action against negligent companies was initially difficult due to the many years between exposure and symptoms, courts in many states can be sympathetic to the needs of mesothelioma victims and generally supportive of their right to compensation.

 

Global Trends in the Use of Asbestos

Wednesday, September 7th, 2011

The history of asbestos regulation and enforcement varies around the world. In many places, dramatic and permanent changes have occurred. Elsewhere, asbestos is still mined and used without regulation. Still other places have adequate regulations but a lack of enforcement to ensure that regulations are followed.

Since the late 1960’s and 70’s, the United States government has created valuable regulations and enforcement policies. Sadly, for many naval ship workers, miners and factory workers, these changes came too late. To date, an estimated 100,000 people have either died or will die from asbestos-related diseases such as mesothelioma.

Trade of asbestos from South Africa ended in 2003, through the result of international negotiations. This has had an impact on use in other countries, as South Africa was a significant exporter up to that point.

Most European countries have taken a proactive approach, banning asbestos. Still, the United Kingdom’s Health and Safety Executive, who is responsible for tracking issues related to asbestos, says that construction workers in business prior to 2000 should be aware of the possibility of having been exposed to asbestos.

While regulated, asbestos is not banned in Canada. In fact, Canada is home to the infamous Jeffrey Mine, formerly the largest mine in the world, located in a town named, aptly, Asbestos. The mine is the subject of great controversy. Although the government has spent millions of dollars on asbestos abatement and monitoring industries affected by mesothelioma, some are pushing to reopen the mine and export the Chrysotile to places like Pakistan and India, where there are no such regulations.

Certain researchers predict that in the coming decades, Latin America will experience a rise in mesothelioma, since many Latin American countries have not put adequate enforcement in place. Due to a lack of accurate data, the impact of this trend is unknown. In the meantime, many workers are reportedly still exposed on a regular basis to harmful levels of asbestos.

Spencer Johnson said, “Change happens when the pain of holding on becomes greater than the fear of letting go.” Sadly, Australia’s mesothelioma prevention measures represent that kind of change. In 2003, Australia banned the use of asbestos as a result of the tragic exposure of its workers and citizens to the Wittenoom blue asbestos mine. The mine stayed in operation for years after the Western Australia Health Department issued warnings about the risk of exposure. Although the mine was closed in 1966, it was too late for many workers, visitors and nearby residents who were exposed to extremely high levels of the potentially lethal material. Currently, Western Australia has the highest death rate from mesothelioma in the world.

Some of the most significant producers of asbestos and asbestos products are Asian or Pacific Island countries. China consumes approximately 600,000 tons in any given year. Although some Asian countries have bans and regulations in place, the large majority of Asian countries do not restrict the uses of asbestos.

International agreement is lacking about how to handle asbestos mining and exporting/importing. Because some industries currently depend on this material, it may be a slow and complicated process. Hopefully in the coming years, progress will be made toward global safety regulations and enforcement policies that protect everyone.

Mesothelioma Settlements

Thursday, September 1st, 2011

Mesothelioma treatment has shown progress in recent years, including methods that may help extend life expectancy. Although there has been overall improvement in the treatment of mesothelioma, sadly, there is no cure for this devastating disease. Chemotherapy, radiation therapy and surgery comprise the most common treatments for mesothelioma. While none of these has resulted in a cure, the most effective treatment for lengthening life expectancy is pneumonectomy. Pneumonectomy involves the removal or a lung or part of a lung along with intensive chemotherapy.

As cancers go, the incidence of mesothelioma is comparatively rare. This fact comes with both benefits and disadvantages. Although this reduces the likelihood of any one individual contracting mesothelioma, the rarity of the disease has also led to fewer research dollars and a generally slow progress towards effective long-term treatment. Many people, however, have found assistance through Mesothelioma settlements.

One key factor in the history of asbestos and mesothelioma settlements is the degree to which major industries knew of the risk to their workers. A study at Harvard University showed that the annual number of mesothelioma cases among males in the U.S. neared its peak in 2000 and was expected to decline to approximately 500 cases per year by the year 2055. The heightened levels of exposure to asbestos in the 1930s through the 1960s coincided with in a spike in mesothelioma many years later. As various industries became aware of the dangers of asbestos exposure, their response to this risk varied. As a result, some industries took the measures needed to protect their workers, while others did not.

If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, you might want to consider talking to a law firm that specializes in mesothelioma to find out whether you are entitled to mesothelioma settlements.  If you have questions, start by taking a look at our Mesothelioma FAQ, or simply contact us by filling out this online form or calling 800-723-3216.

 

Asbestos Exposure: Who Is At Risk?

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011

It is quite possible that virtually everyone will be exposed to asbestos at some point in their lifetime. Even if a person never encountered asbestos-containing materials, asbestos is present in our environment in very low levels. Nonetheless, most people will not develop an asbestos-related disease from this kind of exposure.

According to the National Cancer Institute, certain people are at a much higher risk for asbestos exposure and therefore asbestos-related diseases, such as asbestosis and mesothelioma. These diseases pose a greater threat to people who encounter asbestos regularly or who are exposed to extreme levels, such as the rescue workers and volunteers helping in the aftermath of September 11, 2001. The collapse of the World Trade Center North Tower released several tons of asbestos into the air, potentially affecting thousands at the site and surrounding areas. This, of course, is an extreme example of acute environmental exposure. Most cases of asbestos-related disease are linked to certain industries affected by mesothelioma.

Because the risk of exposure often does not surface until many years later, the current list of high-risk jobs is different than those of the past. Obviously, workers who mine asbestos or mesothelioma linked materials that may be contaminated with asbestos are at a great risk, as well as those who work in asbestos product manufacturing.

Additionally, workers involved in the construction business are at a higher risk of ongoing exposure to asbestos-containing materials in older homes. Activities involving demolition, wall removal, popcorn ceiling removal and work in the attic, can bring a worker in contact with asbestos-containing materials. Firefighters exposed to demolished homes may also run a high risk for repeated exposure. Auto-mechanics involved with brake repair can be at risk for asbestos contact. Some studies have shown that family members of these workers can also be affected, as their loved ones bring asbestos fibers into the home on their clothes. Proximity to asbestos mines may also be a factor. There have been cases of people living near mines developing asbestos-related diseases when they had no other known source of exposure.

Government regulations have come a long way in protecting workers’ health against asbestos exposure. Yet, the potential for exposure is still very real, and the degree to which proper safety precautions are followed on the job may make all the difference in the frequency and severity of the exposure.

Certain factors can affect one’s risk of developing an asbestos-related illness. Studies have indicated that the effects of smoking and asbestos exposure combined may be far more deadly than they are separately. Also, the type of fiber, dose, duration and individual health may alter a person’s risk of developing these diseases.

If you would like to know more about asbestos and asbestos-related diseases, please visit our Mesothelioma and Asbestos FAQ or read our Mesothelioma articles.

 

Other Asbestos-Related Diseases

Wednesday, July 20th, 2011

Mesothelioma, a cancer of the pleura (or lining of the lung) which can be caused by exposure to asbestos, is often times known as an asbestos-related disease. But what about the other asbestos-related diseases? Although Mesothelioma is, generally speaking, the more severe of these diseases, other asbestos-related diseases can pose serious risks to health and can also indicate a risk for asbestos-related cancer. So, what are these other diseases and what are their symptoms?

According to the Mayo Clinic, asbestosis is a progressive disease of the lungs that causes rales (crackling) and wheezing, due to the development of fibrosis or excessive connective tissue in the lungs. A persistent dry cough and even clubbing of the fingers can also accompany asbestosis. Like Mesothelioma, asbestosis may spread to other vital organs. Although asbestosis is irreversible, the progression of asbestosis and the resulting damage can be mitigated by proper treatment. Treatment focusing on relieving symptoms may include the use of oxygen or medications similar to those used by asthma patients. Deaths caused strictly from asbestosis are uncommon. However, asbestosis is an indicator for the risk of more serious cancers such as mesothelioma and lung cancer.

Asbestos warts are another type of asbestos-related disease. These warts develop when callus-like growths form over asbestos fibers that are stuck under the skin. The warts typically itch. They are benign and do respond well to treatment, but like asbestosis, can indicate a source of larger concern.

Pleural plaques are small calcified or fibrous areas that form on the pleura and can be another asbestos-related illness. These plaques are not dangerous, unless they lead to pleural thickening. Pleural thickening can cause lung damage, but alone, is generally not considered deadly.

If you are showing symptoms that concern you, it is important that you schedule an appointment with your doctor. If you have other questions concerning exposure to asbestos or asbestos-related diseases, visit our Mesothelioma FAQ or read some of our Mesothelioma articles.

 

Mesothelioma and Asbestos Risk in School

Tuesday, June 28th, 2011

In general, children are considered to be at a higher risk for developing mesothelioma. Like adults who have been exposed to asbestos, children who are exposed are unlikely to show any immediate symptoms. However, the younger a child is when they are exposed to high levels of asbestos, the more likely it becomes that they may express symptoms at some point in the future. Depending on the type of asbestos and level of exposure, it can take decades for symptoms to arise. People who were significantly exposed during later adulthood may not live long enough to see any symptoms.

According to the EPA, schools built before the 1980’s may have a stronger possibility of containing asbestos. Asbestos has also been found in some playgrounds where fill materials containing asbestos were donated by a construction company or other construction-related organization. Undisturbed asbestos in good condition is considered less dangerous. The more knowledge a school has about the materials in its facility, the better their chances are of preventing hazardous materials exposure to children and staff.

Consistent with the Asbestos Hazardous Emergency Response Act (AHERA), EPA regulations require schools to designate an asbestos management coordinator. The coordinator manages all activities relating to asbestos. The success of schools’ asbestos management has largely been the result of the knowledge and practices of the coordinator. Every school is also required to have an asbestos management plan, which should include a list of any uses of asbestos in school structures. Concerned parents can contact an administrator and request a copy of the plan. In the interest of making sure that school environments are safe for children, the EPA offers an AHERA Designated Person Self-Study Guide, which has been a primary resource for schools since its release in 1996.

But unfortunately, the potential risk doesn’t stop in school buildings. Recent tests have shown the presence of asbestos in some children’s toys. Between 2007 and 2009, the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization, or ADAO, conducted a series of tests on a number of household products sold in the U.S. Three laboratories tested more than 250 products, including children’s toys. Certain modeling clays and other imported materials were shown to contain unacceptable levels of asbestos. One of the most notable cases was a popular fingerprint examination kit. The ADAO tests found significant levels of asbestos in a fingerprint dusting powder that was part of the kit.

Mesothelioma prevention begins with being informed. This mesothelioma blog is dedicated to providing useful information to people about the risks of asbestos exposure and mesothelioma prevention. Whether you are a protective parent, school staff member or concerned citizen, we encourage you to explore this blog, our mesothelioma articles and our mesothelioma FAQ. If you need more assistance, please contact us.

 

Asbestos in Materials Today

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011

It may be surprising to hear that asbestos is still used in some products today. Most types of asbestos have been banned since the 1970’s due to the potential connection to mesothelioma. However, one type of asbestos fiber, chrysotile, has been approved for use in some materials. In insulation and appliances, the fibers resist both heat and cold very effectively. Vinyl floor tiles are strengthened by chrysotile against damage such as scuffing and moisture.

While inhaling asbestos poses serious risks to one’s health, chrysotile fibers are generally considered the least dangerous type of asbestos. Research has shown that the fibers are harmless unless disturbed and released in significant quantities into the air. In addition, when these materials are manufactured, the fibers are sealed into the matrix of the material itself, which prevents chrysotile fibers from being released. Provided that the materials remain undisturbed and are not crumbling, there is no significant risk of exposure.

The EPA has very helpful information about asbestos removal do’s and don’ts. People considering asbestos disposal should consult a professional. Do not sand or tear such materials, as this can release the asbestos fibers. If it is suspected, after the fact, that asbestos containing materials have been disturbed, wet the material to prevent further dispersion of fibers. The EPA also advises not to use a household vacuum or broom to remove dust, as these will likely launch the fibers into the air. Trained professionals will use a special vacuum with a HEPA filter designed specially for this type of situation. If surfaces must be cleaned, use wet mops and sponges. A fine mist of water sprayed into the air may help settle dust as well.

Mesothelioma prevention starts with avoiding exposure. Whether remodeling a home built in the 1950’s — prior to asbestos bans — or handling more recent asbestos-containing materials, asbestos disposal professionals can be of great help. An asbestos abatement professional can assess the risk and recommend a method for handling materials and asbestos abatement. They will also have access to the proper equipment and materials necessary to protect people who might otherwise be exposed. Before working with contractors, making inquiries regarding experience levels and training with asbestos can help determine which contractor will take the necessary precautions.

If you think you have been exposed to asbestos, our Mesothelioma FAQ may be of assistance to you.