Asbestos in workplaces has long been a problem, but as many companies choose to ignore the issues, more and more workers are refusing to work in asbestos-infected workplaces. Just last month, first responder workers in West Palm Beach protested outside the Sheriff’s Office about their unsafe, asbestos-infected workplace, complaining about health impacts and unsafe work conditions.
The protest brought to light many issues surrounding asbestos and workplaces, especially as more and more businesses head back to offices that may have been largely empty for months at a time. But what is asbestos? How does it get into buildings? Why is it dangerous? What are the responsibilities of the workplace for its removal? Today, we walk you through everything you need to know about asbestos in the workplace, and what to do if you need it removed.
How does Asbestos get into Buildings?
Asbestos was a common building material for a long time. Lauded for its lightweight and durable properties, it was often used to fireproof and insulate buildings. It wasn’t until after widespread use that we began to understand its health impacts. As a result, many buildings across the US have asbestos in walls, ceilings, and components.
The US also does not have a universal ban on asbestos. It is still used in everything from gaskets and friction products to roofing and fireproofing materials. While some states have individually banned or limited the use of asbestos, others have not. That means your building could have asbestos without you knowing about it. What’s more, even new buildings may have asbestos if it was used in recent renovations or changes where asbestos products are still used.
If you are worried about the presence of asbestos in your building or workplace, you can call asbestos abatement companies for an inspection. They will understand local guidelines around asbestos and can effectively find it where others may not look. Plus, if they find it, they can safely remove it.
What are the Health Effects of Asbestos?
The health impacts of asbestos exposure are well-documented and understood. They broadly break down into three categories: asbestosis, lung cancer, and mesothelioma.
Asbestosis is a chronic respiratory disease caused by exposure to asbestos. Symptoms can include shortness of breath and a dry, crackling sound in the lungs while inhaling. If it gets bad enough, the disease can lead to cardiac arrest. There is currently no effective treatment for asbestosis.
Lung cancer has much higher rates in people who worked with or were exposed to asbestos than those who were not. It is one of the most dangerous types of cancer but is also treatable through usual cancer treatment methods. Lung cancer risks in people who are exposed to asbestos increase by up to 90 times when combined with smoking.
Mesothelioma is a rare cancer that often occurs in the thin membrane lining of the lungs, chest, abdomen, and even heart. Of the over 2,400 cases of this cancer in the US per year, nearly all are connected to asbestos exposure.
When Does Asbestos Become Dangerous in a Workplace?
Asbestos, when left undisturbed, is benign and will not cause issues. It becomes dangerous, however, when it is disturbed. When that happens, microscopic flecks of the asbestos get into the air and, from there, onto people’s skin and in their lungs. That is when the health issues can start to become a major problem.
Is a Workplace Legally Responsible to Remove Asbestos?
Employer and landlord liability for asbestos exposure is difficult to parse out. The responsibility to remove asbestos when discovered varies from state to state, as does an employee’s ability to sue over health complications related to asbestos exposure. It is best to err on the side of caution, and on the side of keeping people safe.
If you are unsure about your legal vulnerability when it comes to asbestos in the workplace, you can contact a local attorney. What may be more affordable and better overall, however, is contacting an asbestos abatement and remediation service. A professional asbestos company can safely and effectively remove asbestos in your building. This removes your liability and helps keep people in your building safer and healthier.
How can We Remove Asbestos?
Asbestos removal is technical and dangerous work. It involves direct exposure to the material itself and technical expertise. In some instances, large-scale renovations need to occur alongside the asbestos removal. The waste itself also needs to be safely removed and disposed of according to local guidelines. In the case of older buildings, an asbestos abatement company can work to ensure the integrity of the building is kept while the asbestos itself is removed. For some buildings deemed historically significant, professional asbestos removal may be the only way to keep its important history while making it safer.
The fastest and easiest way to get asbestos removed from any building is to call a professional and experienced asbestos abatement company. Armed with the tools and skills necessary, they can safely remove the asbestos and ensure your building is still well-insulated and protected from fires. They can also ensure the building looks and feels the same even after the asbestos is removed. In fact, many asbestos abatement teams can fully remove the asbestos and leave the building looking much like it did before.
Asbestos is a serious problem for people and businesses. If your workplace has asbestos, or you suspect asbestos is present, be sure to contact an asbestos abatement company to deal with it right away. Only professionals can successfully remove it. Contact Alliance Environmental for a free quote.