Asbestos FAQ

What is asbestos?

Asbestos is categorized as mineral, similar to other minerals including lead, iron, and copper. There are many types of asbestos but the three most common ones are the amosite, crocidolite, and chrysotile. It is different from other minerals which turn into dust when they are crushed, asbestos breaks down into refined fibers which are too fine to be seen with the naked eyes. Usually, these fibers are combined with a substance that put them together to produce asbestos-containing material or ACM.

How long has asbestos been in use?

It was in the early 1900s when the asbestos was initially used in the United States. It is used to insulate steam engines. Succeeding years after the World War II, 30 years to be specific, when people who were building and renovating schools and other school public buildings, utilized the asbestos and asbestos-containing materials or ACM. The ACM was mainly intended for insulation, fireproof, and decorate the buildings. The Environmental Protection Agency or EPA appraises that there are ACM in most of the country’s estimated 107,000 primary and secondary schools and another 733,000 public and commercial structures.

How many products have asbestos?

A study has estimated that there are about 3,000 different kinds of commercial products that have asbestos. The quantity of asbestos in every product differs from small to 1% up to 100%. There are many older versions of plastics, brake linings, floor tiles, textiles, and paper products. Heavy industrial products have asbestos including the cement pipe, cement sheets, sealants, and insulation. However, the present law prevents the production, processing, and importation of almost all products.

Why was asbestos so widely used?

Producers realized that asbestos is helpful in many ways. It is very strong yet adaptable and does not burn. Asbestos conducts electricity weakly but insulates efficiently. It has properties that fight corrosion.

How are people exposed to asbestos?

When fibers from asbestos are in the air, there are risks that people may inhale them. Since asbestos is fine and too light, they can remain in the air for a longer period of time and they are difficult to notice. Those who work with chances of contacting these fibers, like contractors working on buildings with asbestos in them, may have the risk of inhaling them. This is categorized as an occupational hazard. The families of these workers may also inhale the asbestos’ fibers which are in the clothes of the workers who are in contact with ACM. This condition is called as para-occupational exposure. Those workers who work or live close to asbestos-connected set-up with chances of inhaling these fibers from asbestos emitted to the air is called neighborhood exposure.

What is mesothelioma?

Mesothelioma refers to an illness where cells in the linings of the chest or abdominal cavities become abnormal and separate uncontrollably. They can cause harm close to tissues and organs. Cancer cells grow or metastasize from their initial area to other parts of the body and working with asbestos is the main cause of mesothelioma. This is proven from records where asbestos exposure at work results from 70% up to 80% of the total cases.

Are there any OSHA standards that protect workers who are exposed to asbestos as part of their jobs?

Yes. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration or OSHA consists of three standards to safeguard the workers from exposure to asbestos in their workplace: one controls the construction job which includes repair, renovation, alteration, and demolition of structures or buildings with asbestos; the other exposure is whose work is at shipping yards; and the third exposure is during the repair of brake and clutch, fabricating of products that contain asbestos, and custodial works.

Do present OSHA standards require employers to provide education and training for employees exposed to asbestos?

Yes. For employers of construction and shipyard businesses, they must give education and training for their workers who are directly exposed to above-permissible asbestos exposure limit or PEL, and for all the workers in this particular work classification. With general industry, employers must give asbestos awareness training to their workers who work in the housekeeping cluster which is covered by the OSHA standards. Employers are required to put warning labels on all the asbestos products, containers, and construction materials when possible.

What are OSHA regulations that do not apply to my workplace?

There is the “Worker Protection Rule” from Environmental Protection Agency which broadens the standards which are applied by the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration or OSHA to the state and local workers who do asbestos jobs but are not covered by the OSHA Asbestos Standards or a state OSHA scheme. The Worker Protection Rule corresponds to the OSHA standards and covers medical tests, protective equipment, air monitoring and reporting, record keeping, and work practices. There are many states and local agencies that have stricter standards and requirements compared to those of the federal government.

Is there a medical test that will show whether I have been exposed to asbestos?

Asbestos fibers are not seen in chest x-rays but they can be observed through early indications of lung illnesses. There are other examinations, including lung function tests and high-resolution CT scan, are capable of detecting any change in the lungs as a result of the exposure of asbestos. These changes, however, are not detected until after many years of exposure.

How can I identify materials that contain asbestos?

It is hard to know whether a material has asbestos by looking at it with the naked eyes until they are labeled. If you suspect about the composition of the material, you must work on it as if it has asbestos. You can also have the material tested and analyzed by a licensed professional. The professional must get samples for analysis as there may be health risks if fibers from asbestos are emitted into the air.

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