Few contaminants present such a long extended risk as asbestos does meaning that the effects of asbestos exposure can affect a person long after they have been exposed.
Workers engaged in renovation and rebuilding construction work are at risk of inhaling, ingesting or absorbing deadly asbestos fibres which although toxic to the human body, were used in the past to make building materials more durable and longer lasting.
Significant exposure to any type of asbestos will increase the risk of developing serious, life threatening illnesses such as lung cancer, mesothelioma and non-malignant lung and pleural disorders, including asbestosis, pleural plaques, pleural thickening, and pleural effusions.
Chronic exposure to asbestos may increase the risk of lung cancer, mesothelioma, and non-malignant lung and pleural disorders.
Most of the cases of asbestos related diseases in Oz are associated with occupational exposure. Workers in the construction industry are some of the most at risk because of the use of asbestos in building materials prior to its banning a few decades ago.
However there may still be some sites where asbestos containing building materials are lying dormant and when damaged during renovations or rebuilding these asbestos fibres are released into the air to enter the lungs of workers or anyone in the area.
Asbestos has now been banned from further use, however it was expansively used in the construction and composition of fire doors due to its excellent fire resistant properties. Caution should always be used when cutting into or working with old fire doors in buildings as these may be constructed of asbestos containing material.If the asbestos containing materials are in good condition it can remain in place but should be labelled to alert people to its presence and the hazard presented.
Diseases from asbestos exposure usually take a long time to develop but it is not worth risking it. Workers who are both smokers and exposed to asbestos are even more at risk of developing lung cancer than non-smokers do.
Often the worst part about exposure to asbestos is that it only reveals itself years later. The time between diagnosis of mesothelioma (the most common asbestos caused disease which is also lethal) and the time of initial occupational exposure to asbestos has been up to 3 decades.
When asbestos fibres are released into the air and inhaled, most fibres are expelled, but some become lodged in the lungs and remain there throughout life to affect the person later in life. Fibres can accumulate and cause scarring and inflammation in the lungs which then affects breathing and causes disease.
People are more likely to experience asbestos-related disorders when they are exposed to high concentrations of asbestos or are exposed for longer periods of time which is why identifying and removing asbestos from construction sites prior to work beginning is so important to protect workers safety.
Exposure to asbestos can increase the likelihood of lung cancer, mesothelioma, and non-malignant lung conditions such as asbestosis for which there is no cure.