It may be difficult to understand why asbestos can be so harmful as a component of buildings when it's a naturally occurring material in the environment. Asbestos generally doesn't cause health problems as long as it's left alone in the building structure and does not start to deteriorate. It can be lethal if people breathe in asbestos fibers during renovation work or demolition, or if buildings are damaged by natural disasters or other incidents. Why is this such a problem when asbestos is found in nature?
Why Asbestos Is Harmful
When people breathe in tiny asbestos fibers, those fibers may become permanently trapped in the lungs. After many years, the fibers may cause lung cancer, or a cancer known as mesothelioma that attacks membranes in the chest and abdomen. Mesothelioma is almost exclusively connected with asbestos exposure.
Exposure to asbestos is linked to other types of cancer as well, and to a breathing disorder known as asbestosis, with symptoms ranging from irritating to disabling.
Asbestos in Nature
Asbestos is an umbrella term for six kinds of fibrous minerals. People can be exposed to asbestos in the environment because rocks containing these crystalline minerals release some of the fibers. Asbestos also is present in soil in many regions.
However, environmental exposure doesn't typically cause problems. It happens in the outside air rather than in a building, which has relatively confined spaces. Concentrations of the fibers tend to be very low in the natural environment compared with asbestos in insulation and other building products.
Unfortunately, asbestos in nature is not always a safe substance. For instance, a study published in early 2015 found that mesothelioma rates are higher in two southern Nevada counties than elsewhere in the country. Various forms of asbestos are prevalent there.
The Concept of Natural Substances as Harmful
The idea that natural substances can be intrinsically harmful may go against intuition. However, consider another natural but harmful substance -- radon. Radon is a naturally occurring gas, but it's radioactive. High enough levels in buildings can lead to the development of cancer over time.
If you suspect or know that your building has asbestos somewhere in its structure, call asbestos removal services for estimates on projects involving tearing down walls, floors or ceilings, or ripping out installation, instead of doing these tasks yourself. Asbestos was a common component of various building products in the United States from the late 1930s until the late 1970s. To learn more about asbestos removal, visit Infinity Enterprises.