July 15, 2022

Asbestos, Indoor Air Quality, and Occupational Risk

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Asbestos, Indoor Air Quality, and Occupational Risk

Asbestos, Indoor Air Quality, and Occupational Risk 1

The September 11th terrorist attacks in 2001 claimed nearly 3,000 lives and wounded more than 6,000 others. The devastation didn’t end there if you add the number of people who will die from asbestos-related disease resulting from the rescue, recovery, and cleanup efforts in New York City in the weeks that followed.

Because asbestos was used in the construction of the World Trade Center North Tower, tons upon tons of asbestos particles were released into the air during the attack. All workers and volunteers deployed to the site and surrounding area breathed in the toxic dust, which was contaminated enough to cause great harm, even death, years after exposure. (1)

But someone needn’t be a hero to risk coming into contact with asbestos. Despite the EPA having identified asbestos as a hazardous pollutant in 1971, there are still more than 75 occupational groups with workers who are exposed to it. (2) What’s worse, many of those work indoors, where the threat of poor air quality is highest.

To know who is affected and how, one must understand what asbestos is and where it resides.

Asbestos is a set of six naturally occurring silicate minerals found in rock and soil. The composite is made up of tiny fibers that are biologically strong and heat resistant. Because of its resiliency, asbestos was widely used across numerous industries and can still be found in a multitude of items that were made before 1972. (3)

Current asbestos-containing products include auto clutches and brake pads, vinyl tile, and roofing materials, in addition to cement piping and other building construction materials. There are many more items that can be added to this list. (4)

Fifty years ago, the dangers of the mineral became common knowledge and today, products may contain asbestos so long as the amount does not exceed one percent. But older products – and building structures – may still contain large amounts of asbestos. Therein lies the problem.

Unhealthy exposure occurs when asbestos-containing materials become airborne, either from deterioration or damage. Employees such as construction, renovation or custodial workers are at the greatest risk because they often are the ones who intentionally, though often unknowingly, disturb asbestos fibers in the course of their day-to-day activities.

The results can be lethal.

The three main diseases associated with asbestos exposure are:

  1. Lung cancer
  2. Mesothelioma – A rare form of cancer that resides in the lining of the chest, lung, heart, and abdomen
  3. Asbestosis – A serious, long-term disease of the lungs

All three asbestos-related diseases are deadly and can take between 10-40 years for symptoms to emerge.

While large amounts of asbestos are held to a minimum by current government regulations, many hundreds of thousands of workers are still at risk of exposure. These occupations include auto and aircraft mechanics, construction workers, drywall tapers, electricians, engineers, home inspectors, industrial plant workers, plumbers, and pipefitters. There are many more. For workers in these industries, the EPA strongly recommends these basic strategies to combat against asbestos-tainted indoor air (5):

  1. Source Control
  2. Improved Ventilation
  3. Air Cleaning Systems

At Air Systems Inc., we serve our customers who work in industries affected by asbestos exposure by providing indoor air quality management solutions in addition to stellar IAQ products. Our air impurity removal systems remove air impurities to give peace of mind.

Contact us today for a free air quality assessment with one of our skilled and experienced indoor environmental specialists.

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