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What to do when dealing with Asbestos

Any one dealing with Asbestos, whether a Home Owner or a Business Owner, should receive expert advice before removing materials that may contain asbestos. If you think your home or business may contain asbestos, check regularly for signs of wear or damage. However, you can't always tell just by looking at a material. If in doubt, have it analyzed by a qualified professional.

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If you must handle small amounts of damaged asbestos-containing materials, follow these steps:

  • Keep other people and pets away, and seal off the work area;
  • Wet the material to reduce dust, making sure it is not in contact with electricity;
  • If possible, do not cut or damage the materials further and do not break them up;
  • Clean the work area afterwards using a damp cloth, not a vacuum cleaner, and seal the asbestos waste and cloth in a plastic bag. Check with your local municipality on how to dispose of asbestos-containing waste;
  • Wear appropriate protective clothing, including a single-use respirator approved by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH); and
  • Wash or dispose of clothing and shower after finishing the job.

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The health risks of asbestos

Asbestos poses health risks only when fibres are present in the air that people breathe. How exposure to asbestos can affect you depends on:

  • the concentration of asbestos fibres in the air;
  • how long the exposure lasted;
  • how often you were exposed;
  • the size of the asbestos fibres inhaled; or
  • the amount of time since the initial exposure.

When inhaled in significant quantities, asbestos fibres can cause asbestosis (a scarring of the lungs which makes breathing difficult), mesothelioma (a rare cancer of the lining of the chest or abdominal cavity) and lung cancer. The link between exposure to asbestos and other types of cancers is less clear.

Smoking, combined with inhaled asbestos, greatly increases the risk of lung cancer.

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