Studies have proved asbestos exposure is linked with various types of cancer.
Asbestos has a wide range of industrial uses, e.g. making automobile brakes, roofing shingles, ceiling and floor tiles, cement, textiles, and hundreds of other products. Asbestos is a natural existence in soil and rocks, made of silicon, oxygen and a small amount of other elements. There are two main types of asbestos:
- Chrysotile asbestos, also called white asbestos
- Amphibole asbestos, including amosite (brown asbestos), crocidolite (blue asbestos), tremolite, actinolite, and anthophyllite
Both asbestos types are linked with cancers.
Ways of Asbestos Exposure
People can be exposed to asbestos mainly by inhaling or swallowing asbestos fibers. Most exposures come from inhaling asbestos fibers in the air when mining and processing asbestos, or making asbestos-containing products, or installing asbestos insulation. It can also occur when older asbestos-containing materials begin to break down. In any of these situations, asbestos fibers tend to create a dust made of tiny particles that can float in the air. When such asbestos fibers contaminate food or liquids, people might swallow them by taking food or liquids.
Many people are exposed to very low levels of naturally occurring asbestos in outdoor air or water supply as a result of erosion of asbestos-containing rocks or soil.
However, the people with the heaviest exposure are those who worked in asbestos industries, such as shipbuilding and insulation. Many of these people recall working in thick clouds of asbestos dust, day after day. Furthermore, asbestos workers' clothing are contaminated with asbestos fibers, such fibers can be carried home and be inhaled by family members
Although use of asbestos has declined in the United States, there're still more than a million American employees in construction and general industries facing significant asbestos exposure on the job, according to US Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA).
Asbestos Cause Cancer
Evidence from studies in both people and lab animals has shown that asbestos can increase the risk for some types of cancer.
When asbestos fibers in the air are inhaled, they can reach the ends of the small airways in the lungs or penetrate into the outer lining of the lung and chest wall. These fibers can irritate the cells in the lung or pleura and eventually cause various cancers, including:
Workers's Protection From Asbestos Exposure
- Lung cancer
- Larynx (voice box) cancer
- Ovary cancer
- Kidney cancer
Workers should use all protective equipment provided by their employers and follow recommended workplace practices and safety procedures. For example, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)-approved respirators that fit properly should be worn by workers when required.
Workers who are concerned about asbestos exposure in the workplace should discuss the situation with other employees, their employee health and safety representative, and their employers. If necessary, OSHA can provide more information or make an inspection. Information about regional offices can also be found on OSHA’s website at https://www.osha.gov/html/RAmap.html