Firstly, what is asbestos?
Asbestos is a natural occurring silica compound; simply put, a natural material found in rock just like coal. It was primarily used in the building/construction industry due to its high flame retardant properties.
Asbestos is a word that often causes a lot of confusion and concern for people, but what do you really know about asbestos? When pressed on the topic the majority of people know little to nothing about the material other than that it is dangerous. This of course is true and people should be aware of the serious health issues asbestos can cause such as mesothelioma and asbestosis. As a result of this asbestos should be treated with extreme caution at all times. However, this blogs aims to provide you with further information about asbestos to help put at ease any unfounded concerns you may have about the material.
It is an established fact that detectable levels of asbestos fibres are evident in ambient air worldwide. Therefore, people are exposed to asbestos on a daily basis. However, this is only within very strict parameters. Permissible levels of exposure are calculated as <0.1 fibres per cubic centimetre of air (<0.1 f/cc) averaged over the 8-hour workday, and 1 fibre per cubic centimetre of air (<1.0 f/cc) averaged over a 30 minute work period. Further information regarding this can be found at HMA’s website: http://www.asbestos.org/HealthEffects/Non-Occupational.html
For example, studies conducted by HMA in the San Francisco Bay Area showed:
- Major urban areas, such as, San Francisco and Oakland reported levels of 0.004 f/cc to 0.005 f/cc on any given day.
- Suburban areas reported levels of 0.003 f/cc to 0.004 f/cc.
This is an indication that asbestos is a part of our everyday lives. However, the amounts are so minimal and below the threshold of government guidelines that it doesn’t pose a threat (in its current volumes) to our health.
Where does this ambient asbestos come from?
Sources of asbestos typically include quarrying, mining, milling and manufacturing. In Australia, manufacturing of asbestos was ceased in the early 1980’s. However, asbestos was used in the production of many automobiles before the 1980’s and many of these vehicles are still on the road today. Asbestos was predominantly used in the brake shoes and clutch linings. When friction is applied during braking, as well as during clutch use, fibres are released. This is one example which explains the presence of asbestos in ambient air. To reiterate the point, the exposure levels are so minimal that it is not considered a threat to our health.
The main point to take from this information is to be very cautious with asbestos. If you’re unsure of whether a material is asbestos or not, contact the professionals and get an expert opinion on what to do next – e.g. is removal warranted in this situation. Furthermore, asbestos is more common in your daily life than you might realise, so although it should be treated with extreme caution appropriate actions can be taken to ensure your health and safety. Be aware, be safe!
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A. D. Envirotech Australia Pty Ltd (ADE)
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