Living Green is not always (or ever) easy. There are numerous toxins, chemicals and natural substances to be aware of at any given moment.
1. What is Asbestos?
Asbestos is a natural fibrous, heat-resistant silicate mineral known to cause a rare form of cancer, mesothelioma and other illness. Due to its malleability it can easily be woven into clothing, paints, adhesives, molds, and various other products and materials.
2. History of Asbestos
Hundreds of years ago, asbestos was used in candlewicks, pottery and funeral shrouds, however, asbestos use increased significantly and particularly with the growth of the automotive and construction industries. In the early 1800s asbestos was found in Africa, and later Quebec in the late 1800s, establishing the fist commercial asbestos mine. By 1870, Germany, Scotland and England joined the global asbestos industry, then Australia in the 1880s and Finland in the 1890s.
The United States Navy used asbestos throughout the 1920s and 1930s for the use of submarine and shipbuilding, affecting health of many veterans, as asbestos would accumulate in the air, skin and clothing while building. The same applies for tradesmen and those in the automobile industry as vehicles often contain asbestos in internal combustion parts, brake pads, gaskets and other places where friction and high temperatures occur. Construction workers especially who built homes, schools or buildings prior to 1980 are likely to have been exposed to asbestos or to contain various asbestos containing materials.
In the 1930s to 1950s artificial snow was actually made with asbestos because of its durability and fire and heat resistant properties. Toys, crayons, personal items, appliances, fireproof clothing (Such as fireman suits) and home construction materials have been known to or found to contain asbestos. Today, asbestos is not banned in the United States resulting in many products that contain asbestos.
3. What are the Dangers and Affects of Asbestos?
Due to the fibrous composition of asbestos, when asbestos fibers are broken down, they are easily inhaled or ingested and can become lodged inside the lungs, throat, heart, abdomen and more resulting in several health concerns such as mesothelioma. However, it can take years before health concerns develop. It may take anywhere between 10-50 years to experience symptoms of asbestos related illness, after being exposed to asbestos. Health concerns scientifically proven to be a result of asbestos exposure include: asbestosis, pleural effusion, asbestos warts, lung cancer, pleural plaque, pneumothorax and mesothelioma cancer. In fact, asbestos is the only scientifically proven cause of mesothelioma.
4. How can I live Green While Being Aware of Asbestos?
Knowing the health concerns associated with exposure to asbestos is essential, but with asbestos in use today, it is just as important to be aware of the common places asbestos is found. More often than not, asbestos can be found in buildings and homes built prior to 1980 in pipe, furnace and attic insulation, asbestos and cement shingles, roofing, siding, soundproofing applications, plastics, paints, adhesives, electric wire casings, floor tiles and flooring adhesives. Asbestos is also naturally occurring, use caution if hiking the Appalachian Trail near the East coast (Especially in parts of Georgia, Pennsylvania and Vermont), Arizona, California, Washington State and Alaska. If it is unknown if you have asbestos in your home, school, workplace or other building, use caution and never disturb asbestos containing materials. W.A.T.C.H for asbestos and do not use fans or sweep in areas where it is likely that asbestos fibers may have fallen.
Through awareness, the possibilities of being exposed to asbestos are reduced. Similar to my recent recycling consequences post, it is important to be aware to prevent consequences and affects on or from our environment. Once informed, you are aware of your environment, thinking proactively rather than reactively and able to focus on living a holistic, green, aware and active lifestyle.
5. Asbestos is not yet banned in the United States
Currently, the United States has yet to ban asbestos. More than 50 countries have banned asbestos globally. Despite the overwhelming medical and scientific evidence proving the dangers of asbestos in any amount, there have been numerous hurdles in banning asbestos in the US. In May 2016 Congress passed the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Cures Act. Although this bill does not ban asbestos, it empowered the EPA to review and ban substances that it deems toxic. In December 2016 the EPA announced a plan to review whether or not asbestos and 9 other chemicals should be banned. However, it is unknown the future of such investigation as funding cuts have been announced for the EPA.
Through awareness, education and action, asbestos can one day be banned in the United States. Stay informed of asbestos and raise awareness using hashtag #GAAW or #2017GAAW.