Non-occupational Exposure to Asbestos

By Stan G. in Asbestos

Even though most of the asbestos-related affections are caused by working in a specific industry, it is important to know that diseases like mesothelioma can also appear due to non-occupational asbestos exposure. Mesothelioma is a dangerous and rare form of cancer and so far, it is only known to be caused by asbestos exposure. It affects the mesothelial cells situated in the area of the lungs and abdomen, causing them to turn into cancerous cells and develop a tumor.

Non-occupational exposure to asbestos fibers can be divided into three groups:

  • Domestic exposure, also known as secondary exposure: asbestos fibers reach people's homes through work clothing.
  • Asbestos-containing products: clutches, brakes, spackle, floor tiles and other materials used around the home.
  • Environmental exposure: affects people living near factories, refineries or other places where asbestos-containing products are manufactured.

Basically, nearly all the non-occupational exposure happens at home as a result of the fact that asbestos can be present almost everywhere. Even so, some people are more predisposed to asbestos-related health problems than other, especially the ones that live in areas where asbestos naturally occurs in the environment.

People can be exposed to the harmful asbestos fibers in various ways:

  • Clothing: the structure of asbestos fibers makes them attach to pieces of clothing really easily. Consequently, those who work in launderettes present a higher risk of developing mesothelioma if they come into contact with the clothes of people who work with asbestos.
  • Furniture: Asbestos fibers can effortlessly be transferred through pieces of furniture like couches, beds, chairs or carpets if the workers do not remove their asbestos-contaminated clothes before sitting down.
  • Hugs: family members can be exposed to asbestos fibers without even realizing. Early exposure of children can lead to the development of lung diseases in their late childhood or early adult life.

Asbestos in Soil Dust

Asbestos exposure is also possible by coming into contact with soil dust, which can happen in various ways. Unpaved roads can lead to dust release into the air, which might put children at risk of asbestos exposure while playing outside the house in dirt. Excessive quarry emissions, building new houses and other ordinary activities such as gardening are just another means of accidentally inhaling asbestos fibers.

Once these fibers reach the interior of the house, they can be air transported through household activities. This is why it is essential to know that vacuuming is not helpful in removing the asbestos fibers as they are very small and can pass through the texture of the vacuum cleaner bags.

Likelihood of Developing Mesothelioma

The way one's health state is affected by asbestos exposure is highly dependent on the type of fibers and the most concerned asbestos-related disease is mesothelioma. For instance, chrysotile is considered a weak cancer-causing agent as it can be dissolved by enzymes, unlike other types of asbestos such as crocidolite which is thought to be very dangerous.

Studies have also shown that the probability of developing mesothelioma is also influenced by the exposure period: the longer the exposure, the higher the risk of experiencing health problems. Moreover, a minimal lower limit of safe asbestos exposure has not been proven to exist.

Influence of Smoking

It is well-known that smoking leads to an increase of the risk of being affected by lung diseases after asbestos exposure. Smokers are part of the group who is the most predisposed to developing lung cancer, asbestosis or mesothelioma. Furthermore, the EPA estimates that by 2030, asbestos will have caused nearly 200.000 deaths.

Asbestos Removal in Homes

The location of asbestos is very important when it comes to asbestos cleanup. Removing asbestos from homes, schools and any other commercial buildings is a quite difficult task. Therefore, unless required by local regulations, it is recommended to avoid removal of asbestos-containing materials and products as it carries the highest risk of fiber release.

Removal of asbestos is a complex process and should only be done by qualified contractors who underwent a special training. If not done correctly, asbestos removal can be very dangerous. Professional asbestos abatement workers are aware of the local regulations regarding asbestos removal and they are the only ones allowed to remove asbestos from homes. Also, keep in mind that in order to remove asbestos from homes, most of the states require an application process.

Why Should I Test Products in My Home for Asbestos?

It is often impossible to tell whether asbestos is embedded in a material, as the fibers are too small to be observed with the naked eye. Exposure to asbestos is responsible for serious respiratory conditions, so thorough testing is required to ensure your home is asbestos-free.