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It has been a well known fact for many years that asbestos exposure over long periods causes severe damage to the lungs. Existing asbestos, mainly in old roofs, which is not damaged or disturbed is considered a static danger. If asbestos is disturbed, damaged or moved, it gives off a very fine dust containing asbestos fibres which are extremely damaging to the lungs if inhaled over an extended period of time. Asbestos specialists safely remove and replace materials such as old roofing structures which contain asbestos.
Asbestos is a group of six naturally occurring fibrous minerals composed of thin, needle-like fibres. Raw asbestos is made by crushing the ore to separate out the other minerals in it, and then processing it until it has a soft, wooly consistency. Pure asbestos can be made into felt, cloth, paper and rope. The fibres can be mixed into cement, drywall compounds, plastics, paints, sealants and adhesives to assist in insulation, waterproofing and provides and fire-proofing qualities. However, it should be noted that ALL asbestos use, manufacture and processing has been banned in South Africa since 2008. South Africa’s last asbestos mine closed in 2002, and asbestos has not been used in domestic building materials since the 1980s.
According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), “ … there is sufficient evidence that asbestos causes mesothelioma (a relatively rare cancer of the thin membranes that line the chest and abdomen), and cancers of the lung, larynx, and ovary (8). Although rare, mesothelioma is the most common form of cancer associated with asbestos exposure.” When a person breathes in high levels of asbestos over many years, the asbestos fibres lodge deep in the lung tissues, causing aggravation and scarring, and resulting in a disease called asbestosis, which is a serious, chronic, non-cancerous respiratory disease. This disease causes shortness of breath, and a dry-crackling sound when inhaling and may, in severe cases, prove fatal. Asbestos inhalation over long periods may cause cancer of the lungs, and looks similar to cancers caused by smoking and other causes. In some cases, the pleura (the lining of the lung) may thicken and swell over time, squeezing the lung and causing shortness of breath.
It is clear that removing asbestos from your home or workplace is a dangerous and skilled procedure, and should only be carried out by professionals who have taken the appropriate measures to protect their health during the process. Due to the identified dangers of using asbestos, this material is no longer used in building works, but may still be present in some of the materials used on the roofs in older residential, commercial and industrial buildings. For the sake of safety and health, it is highly advisable to remove these roofs and replace them with alternative health-friendly options. Asbestos removal specialists ensure that their employees use appropriate safety equipment and clothing when working with this material. This involves full body and hand protective clothing, as well as face masks which prevent asbestos dust from being inhaled. Appropriate signage may also be displayed to warn of the dangers present whilst removing old asbestos materials. In instances where asbestos cannot be removed due to structural limitations, a special waterborne functional coating may be applied to encapsulate and seal the asbestos and make it conform to safety regulations.
Many roofing contractors are certified to safely remove old roofs containing asbestos, and these are the only specialists you should employ in this work. Roofing specialists can be found quite easily, through advertisements in home magazines, home catalogues, newspapers and the Yellow Pages, or through flyers. You can also make enquiries for these specialists through building companies and architects. Searching the internet is one of the quickest ways of finding the right specialist, especially if you use a site such as Uptasker, which will provide the names, contact details, links to websites (if available), online rating and customer reviews of the roofing contractors who are certified in asbestos-removal in your geographical area. From this site, you can click directly to their websites or request quotes for comparison. Many contractors will have their own online catalogues, from which you can check their range of services and read customer testimonials. Whilst word of mouth referrals are always the best option, these are not always available since many people live in modern houses and work in modern environments where asbestos is not present.
It has been clearly demonstrated that asbestos is a dangerous health risk, which is why it is no longer used in building materials, and is removed wherever possible. This should never be attempted by unqualified, inexperienced contractors or persons who are not aware of the dangers that this material poses when handled. Be sure to choose the right specialist when removing asbestos, and ensure the health of everyone involved. For more tips, see our asbestos specialist articles.
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