We have witnessed a steep increase in asbestos-related diseases over the past few decades. In the past, asbestos was used extensively in building materials, friction substances, and insulation, and the main reason was its tensile strength.
However, its side effects exceed its advantages. Asbestos-containing materials can release fibers into the environment when subjected to wear and tear. The inhalation of these fibers can cause inflammation of the heart and lungs. As a result, it can lead to mesothelioma, asbestosis, hyperkeratosis, and lung cancer.
As of today, there is no definitive treatment for asbestos-related diseases. Therefore, it is critical to avoid coming into contact with the dangerous substance or limiting its exposure. So how do you prevent yourself from developing asbestos-related diseases?
There are two types of safety measures regarding this. On a larger scale, one concerns the government, and the other is for the general public.
For the former, the course of action is as follows:
- Phasing out the use of asbestos in building materials by introducing legislation that bans the use of asbestos
- Prohibition of asbestos importation
- Installing appropriate exhaust ventilation in old demolishing sites where a large amount of asbestos fiber is present.
- Amend factory and construction regulations to require factory occupiers, contractors, and employers to check for asbestos in materials used in any process.
- Conducting risk assessments to proceed regularly to help identify possible health hazards for the people who work there otherwise, if a worker develops an asbestos-related disease like mesothelioma due to lack of protective gear or health regulation. They deserve the right to engage a mesothelioma lawyer and demand compensation by suing the company they work for.
- Encouraging the use of substitute materials in place of asbestos in line with the safety precautions set in place
- Workers should undergo a course before directly handling asbestos and other related products. They should not be younger than 18. The person must be competent enough to take on the task.
- The government should provide the necessary equipment for handling the material or donate the necessary funds required to acquire this equipment.
Tips for Personal Safety
If you’re working with asbestos-related products and not under the jurisdiction of any company, a set of rules is necessary for your health, as well as those around you.
The effects of asbestos are severe and can cause secondhand exposure through clothing and skin contact.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
- Ordinary dust masks will not make a difference in this case. It is best to use either a half-face respirator with filter cartridges of class P1 or P2 or a disposable respirator of class P1 or P2, depending on the asbestos exposure level. Keep the respirator on until the work session is over an area is sufficiently clean, so no particles flow through the air.
- Wear disposable clothing, preferably of long coat with an attached hood and disposable gloves.
Handling and Removal of Asbestos Products
- The indoor area should be well ventilated. If outdoors, it would be preferable not to do work on windy days as the asbestos can diffuse through the air and affect the surrounding people.
- Wet down the material thoroughly to minimize transfer through the air
- Use unpowered hand tools (handsaw, hand-powered drill, etc.), as they generate a considerably smaller amount of dust during cutting and breaking the asbestos cement products.
- Shower and wash your hair immediately afterward and make sure you thoroughly clean your hands and fingernails to remove any dust or asbestos that may be on your body
- Don’t use high-pressure water jets, considering there is more danger of spreading loose fibers
- Don’t use power tools of any kind – use dry sand or wire brush instead
- Don’t leave any asbestos-related products on the ground or in the open for prolonged durations.
Clean Up of Work Area
- Work area, tools, and equipment should be cleaned as soon as possible after completing projects, as well as any asbestos cement residues in the work area and on the tools and equipment used by using wet rags or mop
- Dust, particles, and leftovers should be kept damp with water, and keep your respirator on throughout the cleaning.
- You shouldn’t remove any materials from the work area until they’re cleaned or by dry sweeping or using a household vacuum cleaner.
- Under no circumstances should you store or reuse asbestos products.
- Keep the material wet until it is packed (preferably in polythene bags)
- Ensure the packages are transported and disposed of at a designated asbestos disposal site as soon as possible to prevent exposure
- Lastly, dispose of all the clothing you wore while working as asbestos fibers tend to stick to clothes to avoid the risk of secondhand exposure.
Asbestos-related diseases can prove to be fatal if not treated in time. Therefore, workers must follow proper rules, regulations, and safety protocols to stay safe.