For many years now, asbestos has been recognized as a silent killer. Diseases such as lung cancer, asbestosis, and mesothelioma caused by asbestos may take years to show in affected people and, with currently available medical treatments, there is no cure for these painful and debilitating health conditions.
What Is Asbestos?
Asbestos is the collective name for a group of similar silicate minerals with a fibrous, needle-like crystal shape. Asbestos crystals, which are much finer than a human hair, actually comprise thousands of tiny particles call fibrils that may come loose through impact, abrasion,or fire. These microscopic fibres may float in the air and be breathed in by humans. Constant exposure to free asbestos fibres over many years can cause debilitating diseases that often lead to death.
Where Do We Find It?
Asbestos was a very commonly used material up to the late 20th century, popular in building and electrical insulation thanks to its excellent resistance to heat, fire, and chemicals. Large numbers of family homes, schools, office buildings, and factories were built with asbestos insulation in the roofs and walls, while asbestos-based sound insulation tiles were common in ceilings. Hidden away from sight behind walls and ceilings or unrecognisable when combined with cement to form tiles, these toxic fibres are an invisible hazard to millions of people.
Is All Asbestos Harmful?
When formed into shapes and embedded in a material such as cement that tightly binds the fibres together, asbestos is generally considered safe for normal use. It can be found surrounding pipes and water heaters, vinyl floor tiles, and cement sheet cladding and roofing on a home’s exterior. However, if these materials are damaged through breakage that allows fibres to enter the surrounding air, they pose a serious health risk to nearby people without specialist protective equipment. But most relevant to families is the light, fluffy asbestos insulation that may be keeping their homes warm in winter and cool in summer. Sprayed asbestos resembles dirty cotton wool and readily releases millions of microscopic particles into the air when handled. Asbestos batts can also release fibres when handled or damaged. This can be deadly with prolonged exposure and must be removed, as damaged roofs and ceilings may allow asbestos fibres to drift undetected into the home and surrounding area.
What Can Be Done About It?(photo credit to the owner)
There is no alternative but to remove asbestos roofing and ceiling insulation. Professionally qualified organisations like Roofmasters are licensed to safely inspect properties to assess the risk that asbestos poses. If removal is required, specialists with full protective clothing shroud the property in a barrier that prevents asbestos from escaping into the surrounding atmosphere. In this closed environment, the asbestos material is carefully removed in a way that does not contaminate the property. Only when it is deemed safe can the barrier be taken down and the home be lived in again. Licensing also means the removers must safely dispose of the contaminating materials in a way that the asbestos no longer presents a public health risk.
Do you, your family, or circle of friends suspect asbestos in your roof? Have you or anyone you know experienced asbestos firsthand? Share your story in the comments below.