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Published on Jun 22, 2016
Asbestos is the name given to six naturally occurring fibrous minerals. Due to the unique properties found in these minerals, they were used for decades in thousands of commercial products and building materials.
While these minerals may have many beneficial attributes, asbestos and asbestos-containing materials can release fibers into the air when they are disturbed and as they age and become friable. These fibers cannot be seen with the naked eye so they may then be inhaled and get trapped in people’s lungs. If swallowed, these fibers can become embedded into the digestive tract.
The Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry reports that significant exposure to any type of asbestos will increase the risk of lung cancer, mesothelioma and asbestosis. The agency also reports that asbestos-related disease has been diagnosed in not just workers that dealt with asbestos and asbestos-containing materials, but also with family members.
The National Cancer Institute states that this risk is thought to result from exposure to asbestos fibers brought into the home on the shoes, clothing, skin and hair of workers. This exposure to family members is often referred to as secondhand, secondary or take-home asbestos exposure.
Today, there are regulations in many countries meant to protect workers who handle asbestos and to prevent them from exposing others to the material. However, if workers do not recognize they are dealing with asbestos, the proper precautions may not be taken. Also, in some countries, these regulations may not be enforced.
Asbestos-related diseases may not show up for many years. This means that for some families that had a member working with asbestos years ago, before more stringent regulations were put in place, could still be at risk from past exposures.
These are just a few things to know about asbestos and secondhand exposure risks. To learn more about this or other environmental, occupational, indoor air quality, health, safety or property issues, please visit the websites shown below.