This week is Global Asbestos Awareness Week. The Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO) sponsors this event annually during the first week of April. The goal of this week is to raise asbestos awareness in order to prevent asbestos-related diseases. Many people aren’t aware that exposure to asbestos is still a common problem, especially in an occupational setting.
Individuals that are exposed to asbestos are at risk of developing asbestos-related illnesses, such as mesothelioma, asbestosis, or other forms of cancer. Some people that are exposed to asbestos are not aware of it. It isn’t until years later, when an individual starts to show symptoms, that it is revealed that they have been exposed to asbestos at some point in their lifetime.
Modern Occupational Exposure
In the past, people may have known they were working with asbestos but not been made aware of the dangers. Now, asbestos is used less often but the asbestos that was used in the past may still be in place. Some unexpected individuals are exposed in their workplace by in-place asbestos. Some occupations that are unknowingly exposed to asbestos are:
- Demolition and Renovation Workers
Asbestos can still be found in cement pipes, insulation, drywall, and roofing and flooring materials. A demolition worker can easily be exposed to it by disturbing any material that may release asbestos dust particles into the air.
Firefighters work in situations where there is poor air quality and are exposed to several hazardous toxins as they burn. Since asbestos is a well known fire retardant in home construction, it is common for firefighters to encounter it in building fires. Firefighters can also breathe in asbestos in debris when a building collapses.
Many teachers work in older buildings that still contain asbestos. A teacher can be exposed at their school when there are renovation projects. There have also been circumstances where teachers have been exposed by flaking paint on their school’s walls or by them putting thumbtacks into their classroom walls that are lined with asbestos.
These are just a few examples of occupations where an individual can be exposed to the harmful effects of asbestos in their environment. Circumstances of asbestos exposure can be avoided by hiring professional abatement companies, by using proper protective equipment and by knowing your surroundings, such as up-to-date building codes.
Future of Asbestos Awareness
Many individuals are not aware of being exposed to asbestos.They do not begin showing symptoms of it, until many years later. It takes anywhere from 20 to 50 years for symptoms of mesothelioma to develop.
There have been over 125 million people exposed to asbestos in their workplace. One of the ADAO’s main goals is to advocate for asbestos bans. If governments around the world commit to banning the use of asbestos, we can only hope that one day the number of people that are exposed will decline.