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Asbestos: Health Effects Upon Exposure

Since asbestos is naturally occurring mineral, most of us are exposed to small amounts of it in our daily lives that do not cause health problems.  However, when asbestos-containing materials gets damaged or disturbed during building or home repair, demolition work, remodeling, repair of automobiles or deterioration of the insulation products, it can be crushed into a powder and gets suspended in the air.  It is under these conditions that airborne fibers represent most significant risk to human health.

Effects of long-term high levels of asbestos exposure

Asbestosis
chronic exposure leading to scarring of the lung tissues, non-cancer disease of the lungs
Lung cancer
cancer of the lung tissues
Mesothelioma
a rare form of cancer of the thin lining of the lungs, chest and abdominal cavities

Asbestos-related illnesses are most typically found in the cases of long term exposure to asbestos in the workplace.  Smokers are at a higher risk of getting lung diseases from inhaling asbestos and the symptoms of these diseases may take up to 20 years to develop following exposure. 

Regulation of Abatement and Disposal

The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation Solid Waste Program provides information on Asbestos Handling and Disposal.

The U.S Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates the abatement and disposal of asbestos-containing materials from public and private buildings for demolition, repair, renovation, or maintenance purposes.

Building owners and operators are required to use certified asbestos building inspectors to inspect demolitions and renovations to determine if asbestos is present prior to starting projects which could disturb asbestos.  Certified abatement contractors are required to follow safe work practices while handling asbestos materials.  EPA enforces regulations regarding proper removal and disposal of asbestos-containing materials.  EPA also provides education for homeowners about the dangers of the exposure to asbestos in homes and how to deal with weathering materials.

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