The Hazards of Asbestos

Get it removed immediately

What is asbestos?

According to Worksafe NZ, it is stated:
The term “asbestos” is used for a group of naturally occurring minerals that take the form of long thin fibres and fibre bundles. These minerals are non – biodegradable, have great tensile strength, conduct heat poorly and are relatively resistant to chemical weathering, such as from rainwater. Due to these characteristics, asbestos has been widely used throughout the world, articularly in building and insulation materials, including boilers and heating vessels; cement pipe; clutch, brake, and transmission components; conduits for electrical wire; pipe covering; roofing products; duct and home insulation; fire protection panels; furnace insulating pads; pipe or boiler insulation; sheet vinyl or floor tiles and underlay for sheet flooring.

Damage to material that contains asbestos can result in the release of small asbestos fibres that become airborne and are readily inhaled. The World Health Organisation has determined that the ingestion of asbestos through the digestive system, such as through contaminants from asbestos pipes in drinking water, does not present the same carcinogenic hazard as presented by inhalation.
Although not acutely toxic, inhaled asbestos fibres can remain in the lungs for long periods and can cause serious lung disease including asbestosis, lung cancer, pleural thickening and mesothelioma.
These diseases have long latency periods, in the order of 10-50 years, and are associated with all forms of asbestos.

Hazards presented by the different types of asbestos
All types of asbestos fibres are known to cause serious health hazards in humans,
although blue asbestos is considered to be the most harmful. There are a number of diseases that can be related to the deposit and penetration of asbestos fibres in the lungs following inhalation, including:

  • Asbestosis (scarring of lung tissues)
  • Mesothelioma (malignant cancers developing around the linings of either the chest or the abdominal cavities)
  • Lung cancer (often associated with smoking, but sharply increasing an individual’s risk of disease)
  • Pleural plaques (thickening of membranes around the lungs which may or may not lead to further disease, and leading to varying degrees of debilitation).

There has been awareness of the health hazards presented by asbestos since the 1930s and before, but the issue has grown as the full implications of exposures by significant groups in the workforce have come to be understood. It is therefore fair to say that asbestos as a workplace health hazard was not fully understood in New Zealand until the late 1970s or 1980s after significant court cases here and in Australia, and a ministerial inquiry in 1991.

With that in mind, I think about how lucky I am to have moved to a new flat in these last 12 months, that had just had the asbestos ceiling surface removed, and freshly painted over. How it became so popular those years ago, I dont know.
Apparently the last tenant got very sick. I did not get the full reason what was wrong, but I do wonder if it was the fibres got disturbed and he inhaled them.
Also the last place I worked in Takapuna, had an asbestos ceiling in my treatment room.
It was removed, but not before I had worked five years with the ceiling in place… strange too, that all of a sudden I come down with a very rare respiratory disease, of the lungs, (sarcoidosis) and nobody knew how it got there. Luckily that is now in remission for me as that happened 5 years ago.
I would suggest to anyone to check whether they still have asbestos in their buildings, both at home and at work, because they still do exist. The most important thing is to not scratch the ceiling as the fibres flake off and you can inhale them. Call experts to have it removed, as soon as possible.

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