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The Risks of Asbestos Exposure: Understanding the Dangers and Health Effects

an image of an asbestos expert in white coveralls and a breathing mask on.

500 Canadians die every year from asbestos exposure.

Asbestos can lurk in any number of places, from old insulation to the drywall joint compound and plaster on the walls and ceiling of your home or place of work. Asbestos does not pose a health risk until it's been disturbed, which is when the risks of exposure become severe.

Prompt remediation can take care of asbestos and mitigate its risks, but how long does asbestos stay in the air? In today's post, we're going to answer this question and look at the risks of exposure. The dangers of asbestos aren't a secret, but read on, and you'll see how important clean indoor air really is.

Dangerous Asbestos Causes

For decades, asbestos has been widely used in building materials due to its strength and resistance to heat. Due to the risks involved, Canada banned asbestos use in 1979 for residential and later in 2018 for industrial, but many older buildings and homes definitely contain an abundance of it.

The risks of asbestos can be mitigated by avoiding any disturbances to those materials. When materials age, they become brittle and, when disturbed, can flake off and remain suspended in the air. Unfortunately, when buildings undergo renovation or demolition, asbestos exposure increases.

How Long Does Asbestos Stay In the Air?

What makes asbestos so tricky to deal with is that it never truly settles. After a disturbance occurs, the fibers may remain in the air for 48-72 hours before they settle, these loose fibers can then be easily disturbed for years to come.

For this reason, getting professional asbestos removal is essential. It's not something that you should ever attempt as a DIY project. Asbestos is the number one cause of workplace deaths in Manitoba.

What Are the Dangers of Asbestos?

The main health issues that arise from asbestos exposure are:

  • Lung cancer

  • Mesothelioma, which is cancer that starts in the chest or abdomen

  • Asbestosis, which can cause permanent damage to the lungs

  • GI, kidney, or throat cancer

  • Pleural effusions, which is the collection of fluid around the lungs

  • Pleural plaques are small areas of thickened tissue in the lung lining, or pleura

Of all these conditions, the ones that pose the biggest threat are lung cancer and mesothelioma. According to the Canadian Cancer Society, 410 people were diagnosed with Mesothelioma in 2018, and 522 Canadians died as a result of it in 2020.

Asbestos Symptoms

What's particularly scary about asbestos is the fact that exposure doesn't always come with symptoms. Mesothelioma can lay dormant for as much as 40 years before symptoms appear. Lung cancers will likely not show symptoms until it's too far gone.

The onset of asbestosis comes with shortness of breath, coughing, chest tightness, and loss of appetite. Pleural effusion symptoms are coughing, fever, chills, chest pain when breathing, and shortness of breath.

It's essential, especially if you know you've been exposed to asbestos, to have frequent checkups and scans. Early detection, difficult though it may be, is the key to preventing severe illness and death.

Preventative Measures

If you live or work in a building that was built or renovated between the 1930’s and 1990, there's a good chance asbestos is present in the building materials. Asking, "How long does asbestos stay in the air?" is an important question, but it doesn't get to the heart of the matter. You can learn more about the building materials that contain asbestos by watching the video “Where to find asbestos in your home or building” on our YouTube channel. 

The best thing to do is to get asbestos abatement by a professional service. At Breathe Easy Eco Solutions, we've been helping countless Winnipeg residents and business owners create a safer indoor environment. Contact us today to have your home inspected and the asbestos dealt with once and for all.


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