By Emily Walsh, Community Outreach Director, Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance. November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month and we want to remind you about the hidden dangers of asbestos. It is estimated that of the homes built before 1980, about 80% currently contain asbestos. It can be found in exterior materials such as roofing and siding, but can also be found inside the home in certain types of flooring and ceiling products. One of the most common spaces to find asbestos is in insulation around basement furnaces systems and ductwork. Home renovation shows are very popular with hosts knocking out walls and demolishing entire rooms and rebuilding them in a single episode. It all looks so easy, but homeowners can get into more than they bargained for. A seemingly simple bathroom renovation project can quickly become expensive, not to mention hazardous, if asbestos-containing materials are found. Any type of asbestos removal should be left a licensed professional, and all renovation areas should be tested for the mineral prior to any projects taking place. While the cost may seem prohibitive at first, the peace of mind is well worth the inconvenience of testing, especially in older homes where asbestos is likely to still be found. Asbestos was once hailed as a “miracle mineral” and used heavily in construction because of its durability and heat-resistant properties. It has been in use as far back as the Greek and Roman times and was widely used in the United States during the industrial revolution and well into the 20th century. From shipbuilding and commercial and industrial construction to residential building and automotive parts, asbestos was heavily used before it was found to cause cancer known as mesothelioma. As it turns out, the “miracle mineral” is a carcinogen. When asbestos fibers are broken up and released into the air, they can be ingested into the body. Over time, cancer can develop, and it can take 10-50 years to show symptoms. Oftentimes it is diagnosed in stage 4 when very little can be done to treat it.
How to Prevent Lung CancerThe professional asbestos removal may seem expensive, so homeowners and businesses attempt to save money by removing asbestos themselves. This is very risky for those involved. Take a good amount of planning and preparation for your asbestos removal project. It is important to use proper safety equipment to ensure safety. The complete lung and eye protection are the most critical aspects.
Safety Equipment for Asbestos Removal
- Respirators must fit correctly to work properly - do a fit test before starting the asbestos removal. The proper seal around the face is important for the full protection against asbestos fibers. Workers with facial hair should consider using a supplied air system such as the 3M PAPR system for the best fit.
- Wear disposable HazMat suits that are asbestos-resistant, hoods, booties, and gloves for the full-body protection.
- Full-face respirator masks take care of lungs and eye protection. A more economical option is wearing half-face masks.