5 Myths About Working With Asbestos

Asbestos is a naturally occurring silicate compound. During the Industrial Revolution, it was called a “miracle mineral” because of its fire-retardant properties. It was used for a wide variety of materials, particularly in construction. From bricks to wallboard compounds, asbestos was practically everywhere.

However, by the early 1900’s, asbestos exposure was discovered to cause serious health problems. The popularity of asbestos swiftly declined but due to mass manufacturing, asbestos-containing materials and structures are still present up to this day.

Most of those exposed to asbestos nowadays are involved in construction and demolition. They undergo asbestos training and receive certification before they are able to work with the material to ensure their safety. Still, despite all the available information, misconceptions about asbestos still persist.

Below are just five of the most pervasive myths about working with asbestos, which we will debunk for your health and safety:

Myth 1: Asbestos Is No Longer Used Around the World

Did you know that New Zealand only banned the importation of raw blue and brown asbestos in 1984? What’s more, it’s also NOT illegal to import, sell, or use asbestos-containing products.

The truth is that if the product or structure was made before the mid-1980’s, the possibility is high that it will contain asbestos. The probability decreases as you go through the years, with products or structures made after 1990 having the least likelihood of containing asbestos.

You should also take note that in many countries, asbestos is still used in manufacturing construction materials such as caulking, gaskets, and roof shingles. Some of these products may be labelled asbestos-free, but actually contain small amounts of the substance.

Myth 2: If You Discover Asbestos in Your Home or Office, You Should Remove It Immediately

As previously mentioned, people who work with asbestos have undergone proper training. Asbestos, particularly the friable kind, is highly volatile. Even the slightest pressure or vibration can release fibres into the air, increasing the risk of exposure.

If you discover that your home or office building has asbestos-containing materials, it’s best to leave it alone. In fact, if the asbestos is non-friable, it won’t get crushed as easily; you will likely do more damage if you try to do things yourself.

Additionally, there are some cases when containment is the better course of action rather than complete removal. Contact professional asbestos removers to conduct and inspection to either contain or remove the asbestos in your home or office accordingly.

Myth 3: As Long as I Wear a Mask, I Can Remove Asbestos on My Own

If asbestos fibres are only dangerous once they’re inhaled, it’s easy to think that wearing a mask can keep you safe from exposure. This is a false assumption.

It’s true that a high-quality respirator mask is part of the usual personal protective equipment (PPE) that asbestos removal specialists wear. However, masks are not the only part of their safety gear. They also wear overalls that are resistant to asbestos dust, as well as prescribed footwear.

Aside from the PPE, it’s also necessary to properly prepare a space before asbestos removal to prevent contamination. It’s also important to dispose of any asbestos-containing material the right way, again to prevent contamination.

Myth 4: I Need to Be Exposed to Asbestos Multiple Times Before I Get Sick

In most cases, it only takes one exposure to asbestos to develop health problems such as asbestosis, mesothelioma, pleural plaques, and even chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. It all depends on the level of exposure. The higher the concentration of asbestos fibres in the air, the higher the risk.

The symptoms might not manifest immediately, but this situation is actually more dangerous. That’s because you won’t be able to address the issues as soon as possible.

Myth 5: Asbestos Can Only Be Found in Construction Materials

Asbestos was a highly popular ingredient in construction materials. However, it’s not the only place where you can find this substance. Again, asbestos is a naturally occurring compound. This means that there is a background level of it in the environment. Don’t worry, though, because this amount is negligible and poses a very low risk to human health.

When it comes to other materials or products, asbestos has also been found on the following items:

  • car brake pads, clutches, and linings
  • electrical switch boards
  • fire blankets
  • hair dryers (around the insulation of the heating elements)
  • industrial epoxy paints
  • wall insulation
  • cosmetics
  • baby powder
  • Christmas decorations

As you can see, asbestos is literally everywhere. Most of the time, exposure to many of these materials will not cause serious repercussions. The amount of asbestos in these products is often low enough and also of the non-friable kind (which is less dangerous).

If you’re concerned about the level of asbestos contained in your home or workplace, however, consult with the proper authorities to have the property analysed. This way, you’ll know whether or not you have to deal with asbestos removal or containment. Working with professionals will also ensure your peace of mind.

Considering the health implications of asbestos exposure, it’s even more important to debunk myths surrounding it. Hopefully, this quick list has helped in that regard.

Stay safe!