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HEALTH RISKS OF ASBESTOS AND HOW TO PROTECT YOURSELF

You have probably heard the term asbestos being used when it comes to home renovations, car maintenance or even at work. Prior to 1990, asbestos was primarily used to insulate buildings and homes as well as for fireproofing. In industries such as construction, it was used in many products such as cement, plaster, building insulation, floor or ceiling tiles, drain piping, house siding, heat shielding and roof shingles to name a few. Some other common products are vehicle brake pads and motor transmission components like clutches. 

These naturally occurring fibrous crystals can be detrimental to your health if inhaled. Breathing in asbestos fibres can lead to:
•  asbestosis – lung scarring which can cause breathing difficulties
•  mesothelioma – a rare type of cancer within the lining of the chest
•  lung cancer – if you’re a smoker, your risk is greatly increased

Exposure to asbestos can occur if a building or home is undergoing renovations or being demolished. These small fibres can be released into the air during activities such as removing insulation, removing roof shingles or siding, disturbing vinyl floor tiles, breaking acoustical ceiling tiles, sanding plaster or scraping old surface treatments like spackling, paint, putty, caulking or drywall if they contain asbestos. 

However, there are no significant health risks as long as the materials which contain asbestos are sealed behind walls and floorboards, isolated within the attic or tightly bound and left undisturbed. You can reduce your risk of exposure by hiring a professional to test for asbestos before completing any renovations, remodeling, demolitions or additions to your home. In the case where asbestos is found, do not panic. You can hire an asbestos removal specialist to eliminate the hazard before starting your home project.

Asbestos can also be found within some brake and transmission parts. Before attempting any car maintenance, it is suggested that you call the auto parts supplier to see if any of the parts you will be working with contain these fibres. If you are unsure, it is best to take your car to a commercial automotive shop so they can service your brakes or clutch.

If you are ever unsure if the product or material you will be working with contains asbestos, always call a professional. It is better to be diligent and do your homework ahead of time.

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