Asbestos, a naturally occurring mineral, has long been hailed for its remarkable heat resistance and insulating properties. For decades it was widely used in construction, manufacturing, and various industries. However, this seemingly versatile material hid a secret for centuries – it is a potent carcinogen responsible for causing serious health problems.
The History of Asbestos
The use of asbestos can be traced back to ancient times, with evidence of its utilization in pottery and textiles as early as 2500 BC. The word itself is derived from the Greek roots highlighting its resistance to heat and fire. Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that’s mined, which gained popularity during the Industrial Revolution when its applications expanded across various industries. Its heat-resistant qualities made it ideal for insulation in buildings, ships, and factories. It was also used in manufacturing products like brake linings, gaskets, and fireproof clothing.
Risks Associated with Asbestos
While asbestos was hailed as a miracle material for decades, it wasn't until the mid-20th century that its severe health risks came to light. Prolonged exposure to asbestos fibers can lead to life-threatening illnesses, including:
- Asbestosis: a chronic lung condition caused by the inhalation of asbestos fibers. It leads to scarring of lung tissue, making it increasingly difficult for affected individuals to breathe.
- Asbestos exposure: a known cause of lung cancer, particularly among individuals who have smoked. Asbestos exposure has also been linked to cancers of the larynx, ovaries, and other organs.
- Mesothelioma: rare and aggressive cancer that primarily affects the lining of the lungs, abdomen, or heart. Mesothelioma is almost exclusively linked to asbestos exposure.
- In addition to cancer and asbestosis, exposure to asbestos can lead to pleural plaques and pleural thickening, both of which can cause chest pain and breathing difficulties.
Safety Measures and Regulations
In light of the severe health risks posed by asbestos, many countries have enacted strict regulations to protect workers and the public. Several countries have banned or significantly restricted the use of asbestos in construction and manufacturing. Since many buildings that still are occupied were originally constructed prior to the 20th century, it’s common for asbestos materials to be removed, even today. The only certain way to know a building contains asbestos materials is to get it professionally tested. Testing and removal requires specialized procedures and trained professionals are required to ensure safety throughout the process. Employers must provide protective gear and training for workers who may be exposed to asbestos on the job.
Public awareness campaigns and educational initiatives by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other programs aim to inform individuals about the risks associated with asbestos and how to protect themselves.
Asbestos in Real Estate
Durango was founded in 1880 and many original buildings as well as those built throughout the early 20th century still stand. Asbestos is found in local residences and businesses however is not mandated to be tested during a real estate transaction. During an inspection, the inspector may point out certain materials and cause for concern which can lead to the Buyers requesting an asbestos assessment.
The history of asbestos is a cautionary tale of a substance once celebrated for its versatility but later condemned for its life-threatening health risks. While asbestos use has been curtailed in many parts of the world, the legacy of its past use still lingers, and countless individuals continue to suffer from asbestos-related diseases. Understanding the risks associated with asbestos, following safety regulations, and advocating for public awareness are crucial steps in preventing further harm from this hidden danger. Please do not hesitate to reach out with questions and asbestos and real estate as well as local inspection and removal services.