Yes, asbestos risks are still a concern

Today, exposure to asbestos from years past continues to devastate families. It is an all too familiar story — friends and loved ones succumbing to an illness because they breathed these deadly fibers. With asbestos still present in our environment, people need to be aware of the continuously present health hazard it presents. 

Across the country stories of asbestos discovery and exposure continue to emerge. Asbestos is still present in many buildings including schools and apartment complexes, industrial facilities and other workplaces, and even in assorted consumer products ranging from children’s crayons to beauty products. Exposure to asbestos can occur from deterioration or demolition of buildings or from the dust created from their use. Exposures can also occur unknowingly as a bystander to someone else handling and disturbing asbestos containing products.    

Risks of asbestos exposure include asbestosis, and cancers including mesothelioma, ovarian and lung.  Many of these conditions can take years to develop. More than 40,000 Americans are impacted every year by this hazard. In 2023, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), identified Firefighters who enter asbestos laden buildings to be at risk for mesothelioma.   

Asbestos ban update

While asbestos usage began to slow in many industries in the 1970’s and legislation in the 1980’s aimed to ban it, that legislation was overturned. Since then, numerous efforts to ban asbestos have come and gone. Most recently, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized a rule prohibiting the import of chrysotile asbestos (March 18, 2024). While this is a step forward, chrysotile is one of six dangerous asbestos fibers and businesses have 12 years to comply.

There is still a long way to go and asbestos remains a hazard.

Raising asbestos awareness

The first step in dealing with a hazard is being aware of it. As we recognize the 20th anniversary of Global Asbestos Awareness Week (April 1-7) it’s important to educate ourselves about spreading the word to others about the continued dangers posed by asbestos exposure. Asbestos awareness won’t turn back the clock and reduce possible exposure, but it will make people more knowledgeable of the risks and what to look for when it comes to health complications.

Perhaps one day asbestos exposure, and its related diseases, will be a thing of the past.

Until then we need to remain vigilant.