Health Risks from Asbestos Exposure

Asbestos has long been known to be a dangerous substance, though it was frequently used in both the construction and ship-building trades, because of its excellent insulation and fire-retardant properties. In recent years, however, it was found that inhaling loose fibers from the material could significantly harm the body, causing lung cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestosis. For many people, however, bans on the use of this substance came too late.

What are the health risks?

The tiny fibers from asbestos can be breathed in and travel into the lungs. From there, they embed themselves in the lining of the lungs, where they can cause a range of problems. Some people may never experience a problem, and others will have rapid and uncontrolled tumor growth. Most asbestos-related diseases have an extraordinarily long dormancy period. Little is known about why some people develop a problem and why others don’t, and it is difficult to study, as by the time cancer develops, the asbestos exposure may be long forgotten and can never be identified.

Why is asbestos dangerous?

The fibers that asbestos produces are so small and so thin that they cannot be seen. They are invisible, and therefore, almost impossible to combat. A single human hair can be up to 1200 times thicker than an asbestos fiber. Their size is what makes them so dangerous. Unlike other particles which are filtered out of the lung, they are small enough to travel into the lung itself. Prolonged or repeated exposure is especially dangerous, as more fibers have the chance to enter to body and build up in the lungs.

Who is most likely to encounter asbestos?

Asbestos is still being used in some industries and after a long history of us in construction all over the world, anyone involved in construction or demolition is at risk of coming into contact with these fibers. Any time there has been significant damage to a building, especially one build before 1980, there is the danger that asbestos fibers have been released into the environment. In order to avoid these risks, people should know how to protect themselves from exposure.

How long after exposure does lung cancer, mesothelioma, or asbestosis occur?

Most diseases can take more than twenty years to develop and even longer before symptoms start to appear. By the time that a person starts to see symptoms, it is usually too late to take any preventative measures. Some people never develop an asbestos-related issue, while some may see a disease developing as little as five years after exposure. Because little is known about these diseases and about asbestos itself, there are no concrete numbers.

About Brickley Environmental

Brickley Environmental creates safe-and-sound schools, homes, and buildings by designing and executing safe, cost-effective containment, abatement and removal solutions. We do it right the first time — making your profits predictable while supporting your ethical standards and reputation for excellence — and have served Southern California for over 30 years.

The Dangers of Lead Exposure

You have probably already heard that lead exposure is dangerous, but few people are aware of just how poisonous it is—or how common it is in our world. In the United States alone, there are at least 24 million homes where high lead levels are affecting the inhabitant’s quality of life. At least of sixth of those homes have young children, who are especially susceptible to lead poisoning—primarily because children are more likely to put foreign objects in their mouth and suck on them than adults are. Children younger than six are most likely to be affected by lead in a household.

But where is this lead found in homes? While “lead” pencils no longer contain lead, there are plenty of items in the typical American home that could contain this harmful substance. Items that have been coated in lead-based paint are the most common. Some homes, especially those that were built before 1978, likely have lead-based paint on the walls—though if the paint has since been covered with a lead-free coat, which is not chipping away, the family is likely safe.

Toys and rooms with chipping paint, are the most likely to expose children to hazardous led. When it comes to lead paint on the walls, there are basically two modes of action—carefully and safely chipping it all away and repainting with a non-lead-based paint, or simply painting it over with a safe paint and monitoring it to ensure the problem does not reoccur.

Any toys that were recently produced and distributed in China may contain lead-based paint, as it was recently revealed that toy companies who outsources their manufacturing to China, were using some lead-filled paints.

If you are sure that neither your walls, nor the toys are a source of lead, check your jewelry, water, soil, and cosmetics for lead. Until very recently, lead was used in the manufacture of jewelry and makeup, and lead from underlying rock formations or pollution could be leaching into the water supply. Luckily, it is easy to test your water and soil for lead exposure.

The federal government is very concerned about lead exposure rates in the population. Recent regulations have been tightened to ensure that lead paint and other household items that contain lead are discontinued and that the public is alerted to the dangers, as the home is not the only place that children might come into contact with lead.

If you or one of your family members has been exposed to lead, try to identify the source of the exposure and report it to the local government. The proper agencies will then be alerted to help remediate your house or yard.

About Brickley Environmental

Brickley Environmental creates safe-and-sound schools, homes, and buildings by designing and executing safe, cost-effective containment, abatement and removal solutions. We do it right the first time — making your profits predictable while supporting your ethical standards and reputation for excellence — and have served Southern California for over 30 years.

How to Identify Waste and Determine if It Is Hazardous

When it comes to waste, how you dispose of it will depend heavily on whether or not it is hazardous. In order to make it easy to identify hazardous waste, here is a guide which should simplify the process.

Is the waste solid? Keep in mind that solid waste does not necessarily mean that the waste is in a solid state, chemically speaking. Gas, liquids, and solids can all be classified as solid waste. In short, solid waste means anything that is completely waste, which can no longer be used for its original purpose—in short, solid is waste is anything that is “entirely” or “solidly” waste. All hazardous waste is solid waste.

Is the waste exempt from hazardous waste regulations? There are some solid wastes, such as those from households and oils that can be recycled, that are not hazardous waste.

Is the waste hazardous in either a chemical or physical way? If the waste is not one of the “exempted” substances, is it dangerous? There are basically seven different ways to tell whether or not something is hazardous.

  1. F-listed – waste from “non-specific sources.”
  2. K-listed – waste from “specific sources,” and example being run off from iron and steel manufacturing
  3. P- and U-listed – chemicals that have not been used or have been thrown out, including containers that may have a residue or anything used to clean up a spill.
  4. Will it burn? If the flash point of a liquid is less than 140 degrees F, it is considered hazardous.
  5. Will it corrode? If the pH of a substance dissolved or suspended in water is less than 2 or more than 12.5 and can corrode steel, it is hazardous.
  6. Will it react? The production of fumes, instability, explosions, gas production, either when pressure or heat are applied or when wet, the substance is reactive and is hazardous.
  7. Is it toxic? Waste has to be analyzed by a laboratory in order to be deemed toxic, where it will be compared with known toxic substances. If it does match any toxicity standards, it will be deemed hazardous. Pesticides, water treatment substances, and organic manufacturing run-off are the most common kinds of toxic hazardous waste.

In order to determine whether or not the substance really is hazardous, a sample must be taken and testing performed. Most of the time, testing is necessary when a new manufacturing process is introduced, when there has not been proper disposal of waste in the past, when waste has been incorrectly identified in the past, and under certain EPA rules.

About Brickley Environmental

Brickley Environmental creates safe-and-sound schools, homes, and buildings by designing and executing safe, cost-effective containment, abatement and removal solutions. We do it right the first time — making your profits predictable while supporting your ethical standards and reputation for excellence — and have served Southern California for over 30 years.

What the Surgeon General Is Saying about Asbestos

According to a statement released by the Acting Surgeon General of the United States, Boris Lushniak, there is no level of exposure to asbestos that is safe for humans. In relation to that statement, he continued that serious provisions should be made to safeguard the public against this substance.

While we have long known that asbestos is the root of diseases like lung cancer, mesothelioma, and other lung-related diseases, it can be difficult to determine whether or not those diseases, when they develop in individuals, are a result of asbestos exposure or another cause. Because many of these diseases take years to develop before they begin to show symptoms, making the connection is difficult and sometimes impossible.

These statements were made in conjunction with an announcement that the Surgeon General would be speaking at the 10th Annual Asbestos Disease Awareness Conference, held by the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization. The ADAO was extremely grateful to hear the Surgeon General’s statement, as they have been campaigning government bodies for almost ten years for help spreading awareness about and reducing the risks of asbestos exposure and the diseases related to that exposure.

Asbestos was widely used in construction applications during a large part of the last century, meaning that many older buildings likely have asbestos in their insulations. Though some suspected that it was a dangerous material, it was lightweight, flame resistant, and inexpensive, making it extremely popular as an insulator for commercial and residential buildings, as well as freight ships and even cruisers built for military use.

When it was discovered that inhaled fibers could burrow their way into the lining of the lung and begin growing aggressive, malignant tumors there, after a period of dormancy, the use of this material was largely discontinued, but the damage was done. Across the country, schools, offices, and homes already contained the material, exposing millions and millions to these dangerous fibers.

According to the president of the ADAO, 10,000 people in the U.S. die from asbestos-related illnesses every year. Her organization has been petitioning Congress to pass a ban on the use of asbestos as an insulation material, which would make it the fifty-sixth country in the world to do so. 950 tons of Asbestos are still used every year in manufacturing plants around the country, exposing countless workers and civilians to the materials, even though it is widely known that it is a carcinogen.

The Acting Surgeon General’s statement shows progress for the ADAO’s request. Having been acknowledge by a high ranking government officials lends legitimacy to the ADAO’s crusade, and there is hope that the near future will see a ban on this harmful material.

About Brickley Environmental

Brickley Environmental creates safe-and-sound schools, homes, and buildings by designing and executing safe, cost-effective containment, abatement and removal solutions. We do it right the first time — making your profits predictable while supporting your ethical standards and reputation for excellence — and have served Southern California for over 30 years.

Mold Should Be Taken Seriously; Poses Serious Health Risks

Though mold is almost always in the air around us, it is usually not in high enough concentrations to warrant a serious health risk. According to a statement released by the CDC, the time to worry about mold is when as soon as you can see colonies of it growing or smell it’s unique, musty odor.

Three years ago, huge colonies of mold were found lurking in the walls of the OSF St. Elizabeth Medical Center, discovered during an inspection by Illinois’ Department of Public Health. At that time, the hospital was required to write a remediation plan, under penalty of losing Medicare payments if the mold was not removed.

Currently, there are actually no regulations dictating acceptable airborne mold levels, and most health departments do not conduct regular mold tests. Even if tests were conducted on a regular basis, because there are no standards established by the federal government against which to judge those numbers, it would be difficult to know when mold remediation is necessary.

Even so, it is widely known that high concentrations of mold spores can trigger asthma attacks, respiratory problems, and a wide range of other, more serious diseases. Women who are pregnant, children, the elderly, and anyone with a respiratory illness is especially susceptible to mold.

The Occupational Health and Safety Administration reports that acceptable levels of mold change from industry to industry, but that all standards still fall under their creed of providing a safe and healthy working environment. That being said, mold is rarely found growing openly on the walls of a building. Most colonies thrive inside the walls or in basements and crawl spaces. Despite where it is, what type it is, or whether it is alive or dead, when colonies are found, they should be removed.

If a colony has any access to moving air, it is likely releasing spores into that air. They are then carried throughout the building, often evading whatever air filtration systems may be in place.

Most experts do not recommend investing in mold sampling. Not only is it an expensive practice (and one where a false positive is easily to fake), there are no standards to compare those test results against. It is also not able to determine how serious the health risks relating to any mold present in the building may be.

The only type of mold testing that does produce any useable results determines if an individual person has been exposed to mold, though this test, too, has its shortcomings. It is unable to tell when or where the exposure occurred. Because the shortcomings in these tests, the best rule of thumb is to remove mold if it can be seen, and if it can be smelled, to find and remove that as well, in order to mitigate further exposure.

In the case of St. Elizabeth, the bathrooms are now up to code and remediation is complete, according to the Illinois Health Department.

About Brickley Environmental

Brickley Environmental creates safe-and-sound schools, homes, and buildings by designing and executing safe, cost-effective containment, abatement and removal solutions. We do it right the first time — making your profits predictable while supporting your ethical standards and reputation for excellence — and have served Southern California for over 30 years.