Asbestos:What’s This Stuff? Essay, Research Paper


Six months ago, my husband and I purchased a small piece of property in Manhattan, Kansas to start our own computer repair business. The property was in desperate need of remodeling, but we needed to keep expenses to a minimium in order to make any profit. We had two other employees besides ourselves at this time, but as business started to pick up, we had to hire five more technicians to keep up with all the orders that were coming in. Our space was getting limited and then we were left with the decision that it was now time to get ready to remodel the building. We hired our own staff to help with the remodeling, at their request for the overtime and their experience with this type of work. This was more economical for us, since we could just pay our own employees overtime instead of hiring contractors to come in and do the work at a more expensive rate.

The construction team began tearing down walls and removing ceiling tiles in a part of the building that was not used before. One of the employee?s discovers a white powdery substance during this process that he is to believe is asbestos. That next morning, the employees come to me to report the case of this dangerous material. I didn?t know what to do since I was no expert on this type of stuff. I had decided to call the county health department to get some information on such a material called asbestos. The health department had given me some material to read on asbestos that came from the Department of Labor, it read:

Asbestos is a group of naturally occurring minerals. The three most common types of asbestos are:



c) crocidolite

Asbestos is commonly used as an acoustic insulator, thermal insulation, fire proofing and in other building materials. Asbestos fibers are incredibly strong and have properties that make them resistant to heat. Asbestos is often found in ceiling tiles, pipe and vessel insulation, blown on to structural beams and ceilings, in floor tile, linoleum and mastic. Asbestos is made up of microscopic bundles of fibers that may become airborne when distributed. These fibers get into the air and may become inhaled into the lungs, where they may cause significant health problems. Researchers still have not determined a “safe level” of exposure but we know the greater and the longer the exposure, the greater the risk of contracting an asbestos related disease. (Department of Labor, 1998)

This had given me a general ideal of what this material was contained of but I had not known that this was harmful to your health if inhaled. I immediately began to panic for my employees and myself because we had been exposed to the substance for a long period of time and not knowing that it could be causing health concerns was worrying me. I then investigated the diseases that this substance may cause if inhaled for over a period of time. I looked up on the internet about asbestos related diseases at ?The Official Website Of National Cancer Institute? at It has a lot of helpful information on asbestos related diseases. According to the report, asbestos caused four serious diseases: lung cancer, mesothelioma, digestive system cancer, and asbestosis. The information I found on these four types were:

Lung cancer refers to any type of malignant tumor that originates in the lung itself (unlike mesothelioma, which is in the pleural lining around the lung.) Adding to the complexity of understanding the relationship between lung cancer and asbestos exposure is the issue of smoking. There is a synergistic relationship between asbestos exposure and smoking. What this means is that although workers who have been exposed to asbestos have a higher risk of developing lung cancer, it is also well known that smokers have a higher risk of developing lung cancer; but the cancer risk of workers who were exposed to asbestos and who smoked is not simply the sum of these two separate risks. Rather, these risks are multiplied. The combined cancer risk is therefore very much higher – as high as 50 to 90 times the risk faced by the general population. (Kazan, McClain, Edises, Simons, and Abrams, 1999)

Mesothelioma is sometimes diagnosed by coincidence, before there are any symptoms. For instance, tumors have been discovered through routine chest x-rays. However, when symptoms occur, they may include shortness of breath, weakness, weight loss, loss of appetite, chest pains, lower back pains, persistent coughing, difficulty in swallowing, alone or in combination. An initial medical examination often shows a pleural effusion, which means an accumulation of fluid in the pleural space – the area between the lungs and the chest wall. (Kazan, McClain, Edises, Simons, and Abrams, 1999)

The underlying disease process of asbestosis is not yet fully understood, but it appears that asbestos fibers in the lungs cause irritation and inflammation. The body attempts to neutralize these foreign fibers in various complex ways, and some or all of these processes lead to further inflammation and cell damage. Eventually a fibrosis or scar tissue develops in the interstitial spaces around the small airways and alveoli. This thickening and scarring prevents oxygen and carbon dioxide from traveling between the alveoli and the blood cells, so breathing becomes much less efficient. (Kazan, McClain, Edises, Simons, and Abrams, 1999)

The causal connection between exposure to asbestos fibers and development of gastro-intestinal tract cancers appears probable, but has not yet been proven with certainty. The diseases for which asbestos exposure is a generally accepted cause, are mesothelioma, asbestosis, small airway fibrosis, pleural plaques, pleural fibrosis, pleural effusions, and many lung cancers in association with asbestosis. At this time asbestos exposure is not generally accepted as the cause of cancers of the pancreas, kidney, stomach, colon, esophagus or ovary. (Kazan, McClain, Edises, Simons, and Abrams, 1999)

The information on asbestos related diseases was really starting to worry me. I was concerened about what was to be done with the asbestos containing material that was all throughout my building that I was making my living out of. I didn?t know if I was going to have to buy another piece of property and start all over again or try to get rid of this deadly material. I was also worried about my employees state of health discovering what exposure to asbestos may cause. I was going to get this taken care of once and for all but I didn?t know who I should call or should I just do it myself, so then I found more information on the removal of asbestos from Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). EPA and OSHA are responsible for regulating environmental exposure and protecting workers from asbestos exposure. OSHA is responsible for the health and safety of workers who may be exposed in the workplace, or in connection with their jobs. EPA is responsible for developing and enforcing regulations to protect the public from this airborne contaminant that is hazardous to human health. New OSHA regulations require building owners to presume that any suspected material is asbestos until a laboratory analysis is conducted. This had determined what was needed to be done to keep this contaminant controlled.

Once all of the asbestos containing material was removed, the computer repair shop was open for business once again. Now that I know what asbestos is all about, I take greater precaution measures for all of my employees and myself. Asbestos is still a problem today because a great deal of it has been used in many products for a long period of time within the United States and elsewhere. Consequently, asbestos containing fibers may be found in man-made materials nearly anywhere in the world. Most people have been exposed to asbestos at least once in their lifetime, but the risk of disease is greatest for those workers who work around asbestos containing material. Dealing with asbestos responsibly can save lives and prevent debilitating diseases.



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