Posted on: 1 September 2017Share
With around one-third of Australian homes containing asbestos building materials, many people come into contact with it throughout their lives. Asbestos begins to cause a risk when it's not properly contained, or when the materials containing it are disturbed or damaged. If you suspect your home or work environment requires asbestos testing, you may want to know more about the diseases this material causes.
Workers who face exposure to asbestos for many years may find that the small fibres coming into contact with their lungs cause scarring. As the lungs require a certain degree of elasticity in order to inflate and deflate during breathing, scarring can result in them becoming too stiff to do so. As a result, those suffering from the disease notice an increase in their shortness of breath that inevitably becomes fatal.
The pleura of the lungs is a lubricated space between the lungs and the chest cavity that allows them to move freely during breathing. Workers who encounter small asbestos particles may experience pleural thickening, which makes it harder for the lungs to expand. Like asbestosis, this results in shortness of breath, which may make everyday activities and exercise difficult.
Lung cancers related to asbestos
Another disease affecting the pleura due to asbestos exposure is mesothelioma, which is a lung cancer. It's rare to encounter this type of cancer without previous asbestos exposure, and upon diagnosis, it's often a fatal prognosis. More frequently, workers who work in asbestos-filled environments will experience some of the lung cancers you may associate with smoking. There's also rising evidence to link asbestos exposure with gastrointestinal, ovarian, and laryngeal cancer.
When you choose to use an asbestos testing kit, you can identify unsafe levels that are likely to expose you and your workers to the risks associated with these diseases. Using such kits is particularly important in buildings built before the year 2000, or when you're working on an unfamiliar site with a patchy history. In addition to protecting your workers, these kits may also protect their family members, as workers who face prolonged asbestos exposure may carry harmful fibres home with them.
It's important to remember that you can't see or smell asbestos fibres, which means it's better to err on the side of caution than assume none is present. When you use a testing kit, you can formulate a plan that keeps you and your workers safe, which in turn reduces your risk of various lung diseases.