To increase asbestos safety, a person should avoid all contact with asbestos. While small degrees of exposure throughout a lifetime may not pose a threat, disturbing asbestos can cause it to release fibers that can inflict serious damage. If asbestos is present and already disintegrating, it should be identified and properly removed.
A fiber made from a mineral material, asbestos is an ingredient in a variety of products. If left untouched, asbestos is largely harmless; however, if broken down over time, it can cause severe health problems. Maintaining asbestos safety is an important part of preventing these problems.
Identification of asbestos should be performed very carefully. To be certain of its presence, a sample will usually need to be taken and mailed to a National Voluntary Laboratory Accreditation Program. Prior to taking the sample, the sampler should keep the material away from all other people in the home to maintain proper asbestos safety.
Disposable gloves should be worn while taking the sample. Heating and cooling should be turned off to avoid spreading potential asbestos fibers. The item should be disturbed as minimally as possible, with a plastic sheet protecting the area below the item. Wet the material with a spray of water mixed with a small amount of detergent to minimize exposure.
Using a knife, cut a piece of the material from its complete depth. Put the sample into a clean container or plastic bag and tightly seal it shut. Throw the plastic sheet away and clean the area carefully. Label the bag or container with the location as well as the sampler's name before mailing it for identification. The item the sample was taken from should be carefully patched with duct tape to avoid spread of fibers.
In the past, asbestos has been used to make items stronger. It has also been used as insulation to retain heat, as well as to act as a fire retardant. Most modern products do not contain asbestos. Purchasing products made after the 1970s can usually ensure greater asbestos safety.
During the normal aging process, asbestos, like many other materials, breaks down. As they break down, asbestos fibers can be released into the air. Products that people may wish to check for the presence of the material include boilers, vinyl sheet flooring, steam pipes, insulation, door gaskets, textured paint, roofing, stove-top pads, asbestos ceiling tiles, hairdryers, fireproof gloves, cement sheeting, ironing board covers, siding and shingles. These items should be checked regularly for wear and damage. If found, they should be professionally disposed of by a local health or environmental agency.
Asbestos damage occurs through inhalation. People exposed to a high level of these fibers have been known to suffer from serious health conditions as a result. Mesothelioma, a cancer of the abdominal cavity and chest, can result. Asbestosis, a condition that causes lung scarring, is another possible effect from not maintaining proper asbestos safety.