The Silent Killer: Are There Early Detection Methods For Asbestos Disease?
The ability of asbestos to prevent fire has been known at least since the Bronze Age. Unfortunately, the mineral fiber was not definitively linked to lung diseases until the 1960s. In the 1970s, regulators began to restrict the use of asbestos as a building material. Despite these efforts, many people still die from asbestos-related diseases.
Since asbestos is hard to detect in the air and body, preventive asbestos inspection methods are the best way for you to identify asbestos exposure in your living or work environment.
Environmental Signs of Asbestos
Asbestos is a dangerous invisible cause of lung disease. Exposure to asbestos can cause a cancer of the lung lining called mesothelioma, lung cancer, and lung scarring called asbestosis. The danger is that asbestos fibers are invisible to the senses. When asbestos insulation is disturbed, the fibers enter the lungs unnoticed.
Asbestos fibers have been detected in the urine of factory workers, miners, and roofers. These fibers can cause urinary tumors. Scientists are working on biomonitoring methods for early detection through urine testing.
Human Health Signs of Asbestos
The delayed onset of asbestos symptoms explains its high mortality rate. The signs of asbestos poisoning appear 20 to 50 years after direct exposure. When symptoms do appear, they are similar to those associated with lung cancer and include:
- A dry cough
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain or tightness
A lesser known symptom is enlargening of the fingertips or toes, which is also commonly associated with lung disease. It can take many years, though, for digits to appear bulbous.
If you know you were exposed to asbestos — for example, in your workplace or the home you grew up in — inform you doctor so he or she can be on guard for symptoms.
Considering how difficult it is to detect asbestos and asbestos contamination, all building materials installed before 1980 should be tested for asbestos. Most homeowners are aware of the potential presence of asbestos in insulation. Asbestos may also be present in flooring, drywall, and other building materials. DIY asbestos testing kits, however, are an insufficient test of asbestos in most cases.
Professional asbestos inspections test both the air and materials for asbestos. Airborne asbestos fibers are measured by their air concentration. The acceptable standard is 0.1 fibers per cubic centimeter.
A DIY kit may give you the all clear. But if renovations or water leakage disrupt the asbestos, it could become a hazardous risk. The best defense against this invisible disease is actively conducting asbestos inspections of your home and work environments.
For more information about asbestos inspections, contact a local company.