Occupational Hazards of Asbestos

Asbestos is a hazardous material that can cause chronic health problems to those who have been exposed. Learn more about asbestos hazards in the workplace. 

What is Asbestos?

Asbestos is a generic term for 6+ unique minerals or fibers. Asbestos fibers are very strong, highly flexible, non-biodegradable, environmentally persistent, and resistant to breakdown by acid, alkali, water, heat, and flame.

Types of Asbestos:

  • Serpentine (93% of commercial use)
  • Amphibole (7% of commercial use)
  • Chrysotile
  • Amosite
  • Crocidolite
  • Actinolite
  • Anthophyllite
  • Tremolite
  • Richterite
  • Winchite

Why is Asbestos Harmful?

Asbestos is a hazardous material and a known carcinogen that can be found in materials used in older buildings and structures. Left undisturbed the risk to exposure is quite low. If work activities disturb asbestos-containing material, it releases asbestos fibers which increase the risk to extreme.  

How Does Asbestos Affect the Body?

There is significant research to support the long-term health effects of asbestos exposure. If workers do not take proper precautions around asbestos, they may develop serious chronic health problems or even die from an asbestos-related disease. 

Asbestos fibres are extremely fine and when disturbed can remain suspended in the air for hours. When workers inhale these fibres, they are carried into the lower regions of the lung and cause fibrotic lung disease (asbestosis) and changes in the lining of the chest cavity (pleura).   

These diseases can lead to reduced respiratory function and death.  Long-term inhalation of asbestos fibres also increases the risk of lung cancer and mesothelioma. 

Elevate the level of occupational health standards for your company.

Who Needs To Be Concerned About Asbestos?

Asbestos was used extensively in building material from the 1950s to 1990s, due to its properties as an insulator, tensile strength, and resistance to fire and chemical erosion. Industries that work in the demolition, renovation of older residential and commercial construction are at high risk. Current asbestos-related disease is associated with work exposures that occurred 10 to 40 years ago. This is due to the long latency period between exposure and onset of disease. Occupational groups that may be exposed to asbestos include:

  • Electricians
  • Plumbers
  • Plaster and drywall installers
  • Ship builders 
  • Auto mechanics

Family members of asbestos workers can also be exposed to high levels of asbestos because the fibers can be carried home on the workers’ clothing and can then be inhaled by others in the household; this is known as secondary exposure. Other risk factors for developing asbestos-related disorders include people with pre-existing lung disease and people who smoke cigarettes. When these risk factors are combined with asbestos exposure it dramatically increases or adds to the severity of health effects. 

How to Prevent Occupational Asbestos Exposure 

Workplaces that have a risk of exposure to asbestos need to have an asbestos exposure control plan in place. Chemscape Safety Technologies provides businesses with industry-leading exposure control plans that follow regulations and guidelines in conjunction with business operations. Contact us today to learn more.

Keep your workers healthy, safe, and productive.