Obviously each of these projects comes with their own hazards. Popcorn ceiling fluff in your eye. Smashing your thumb with a hammer. Knocking down the wrong part of the wall. While those are all definitely hazards to avoid, today we want to give you information about a more serious hazard to watch for if you do any home projects. Most of us, if not all, have heard about asbestos and that it is not good to be around, but if you are like me that is just about all you knew. Don't click away yet! You may be surprised at what you learn. I was! I'll be honest. I didn't even know exactly what asbestos was, or even if it is synthetic or natural.
Asbestos is a natural group of fibrous minerals which can be separated and "woven" into threads. The fibers were discovered to be resistant to heat, fire, chemicals, they do not conduct electricity, and they are flexible which made asbestos a great building material until it was linked to illnesses, cancers, and deaths. Amazingly, asbestos still continues to be used in some products!
Asbestos fibers enter the body through inhalation or ingestion and then can lodge in the lungs, stomach, or intestines. These un-digestible fibers may cause scar tissue, restricting the use of the organ, but they can also cause lung cancer or malignant mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is a rare cancer, with new cases being diagnosed in 2,500-3,000 Americans each year, which is found in the thin layer of cells that line our internal organs.
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The prognosis for mesothelioma is not good. I read on mesothelioma.com that, due to the nature of the cancer, many cases are not detected until the cancer has reached its more advanced stages. The survival rate after diagnosis is often only a year or two. As with most cancers, the earlier it can be caught, the higher the chance of recovery.
We were made aware of this disease through an email from Cameron Von St. James, the husband of mesothelioma survivor Heather Von St. James. Heather was diagnosed with mesothelioma three months after she gave birth to their daughter. Heather was given 15 months to live. That was 8 years ago now. After her diagnosis she had surgery removing her left lung, which saved her life. Now, she is thriving! Their family is working hard to share their story, spreading awareness of mesothlioma, and to give support to those going through the same struggle Heather went through.
So how can you reduce your chances of mesothelioma? Avoid asbestos exposure. Not sure if the old tile you found under your kitchen linoleum is asbestos? Leave it alone. It is suggested that if the asbestos material can be left intact, leave it and build over it. If the asbestos material is crumbling or falling apart, seek professional help.
Even if your home is new and the asbestos is at a minimum, you may still be at risk for asbestos exposure if a family member works in an asbestos laden workplace. Secondary exposure can still be enough exposure to inhale or ingest asbestos fibers.
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So before you dive into your home project, be aware! If you think you have found asbestos, leave it alone. Asbestos comes in materials of every shape, color, size, and function so it can be hard to identify which material contain asbestos (asbestos itself can only be identified under a microscope). If you have a question about a certain material containing asbestos check first for any labeling on the product. If you can't find a label, look up the product online or call a professional.
Also, check out this great pamphlet prepared in the UK about being aware of asbestos during DIY home projects. It has some great information and tips!