Asbestos Fiber and Its Hidden Hazards

For something that looks so tiny and harmless, asbestos fibers pose tremendous hazards to a person’s health. The hazards posed by asbestos are so great that they have merited one of the longest-running safety campaigns in the history of workplace safety.

The OSHA provides for strict standards governing worker’s exposure to asbestos in shipyard employment, construction work and in the general industry. Just last month, an asbestos contractor in Rochester, NY was sentenced to six years of prison time for blatantly disregarding these standards in the partial demolition of a building. A large number of lawsuits have also been filed and won against companies for asbestos-related injuries and damages. If you’ve ever doubted the dangers of asbestos exposure, then consider the following:

Asbestos is a recognized carcinogen. According to a summary report of the Department of Health and Human Services, numerous studies – some as recent as 2009 – have confirmed that exposure to any of the different forms of asbestos are strongly associated with an increased risk of lung cancer, mesothelioma or cancer of the lung lining, cancer of the larynx, and ovarian cancer.

Exposure to asbestos can also lead to a number of non-cancer health issues. Apart from being a recognized carcinogenic, asbestos is also the lead cause for other respiratory disorders, particularly asbestosis and lung tissue scarring. Common complaints include shortness of breath, chest pains, tightening of the chest, and persistent cough.

Health hazards from asbestos exposure can be brought home. The risks associated with asbestos exposure also affect the families of workers since the substance can easily cling to tools, clothes and other materials and can thus be brought home. One study conducted by the NIOSH found that many instances of family members exposed to transported asbestos has been observed worldwide.

There is no treatment. Once inhaled, asbestos fibers that lodge themselves into the lining of your lungs can stay there permanently. There is no known method to treat or remove these fibers. Once they’re lodged into one’s lungs, they can remain there and further accumulation can lead to the development of cancers and other diseases.

As these all show, worker protection from the health hazards brought about by exposure to asbestos is not something that any company or employer should ever take lightly. Exposure risks in the workplace must always be identified, and proper protection should be provided to all workers that may come to contact with asbestos.

Asbestos Awareness product available on this site

Additional online resources

  • What is Asbestos? Asbestos is a naturally occurring fibrous material that has been a popular building material since the 1950s
  • Health Hazards of Asbestos: Asbestos-related diseases such as malignant mesothelioma, lung cancer and asbestosis have claimed lives for as long as people have worked, lived, played and grown up with or around asbestos.