Asbestos was a dangerous building material that is now known to cause several types of severe illnesses, including cancer. Identifying asbestos is not easy because it is odorless and tasteless. Visual examination is not enough to determine the usage of the substance. Instead, a removal contractor needs to take a sample of suspect materials and test them in a lab.
While all asbestos minerals share properties, each has distinctive characteristics. The appearance of asbestos fibers varies by makeup, and it can be broken down into two distinct categories.
- Serpentine asbestos: This type of asbestos is made of the mineral chrysotile and is commonly referred to as white asbestos. The flexibility of the material was hailed in commercial production, and the heat-resistant and fireproof qualities made it a staple in home design. Unfortunately, the previous widespread use of the substance still presents a significant health risk today.
- Amphibole asbestos: This type of asbestos is not often found in commercial products because of its brittle and sharp fibers. However, the five minerals – amosite, crocidolite, tremolite, actinolite and anthophyllite – are naturally occurring. If inhaled, the asbestos minerals can cause significant damage and scarring to the lungs, making them hazardous.
Exposure to asbestos can lead to significant health issues, but that often relates to exposure duration and type. There are three forms of asbestos exposure.
- Occupational: Occupational exposure is the riskiest form of asbestos exposure and the most common cause of severe illness. Blue-collar construction workers who came into direct contact with the substance daily before stricter federal regulations were often diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma.
- Secondary: Secondary exposure refers to family members of asbestos workers. Laborers would bring the substance home on their clothes. When the clothes were shaken out, the asbestos dust was released into the air, where household members would breathe it in.
- Environmental: Environmental exposure related to pollution or naturally occurring asbestos deposits. There are naturally occurring asbestos deposits found throughout the country, like Montana and California. Simple outdoor activities in these areas can result in the release of asbestos fibers into the air.
Most negative health effects of asbestos are related to long-term exposure. However, any exposure can result in adverse health symptoms. If you believe your home has asbestos materials or are worried about natural asbestos deposits, contact an asbestos contractor, like from Nielsen Environmental. They will come out to your property and take samples to determine your risks.