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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

 
WHAT IS ASBESTOS?

Asbestos is a naturally occurring, fibrous mineral that can only be identified under a microscope. It comes from a rock which can be found all over the world, and is the California state rock - Chrysotile. 

Asbestos was originally viewed as a miracle material. It is used as a fireproofing material and provides excellent insulation. It is also very inexpensive to use. The hollow fibers of the mineral are most dangerous when airborne.

HISTORY OF ASBESTOS

The use of asbestos started in early Greek times. The word asbestos means extinguishable and is derived from the Greek language. It is used in a number of woven products during the Greek and Roman period, like easy-to-clean tablecloths and napkins, shrouds for deceased royalty placed in funeral pyres and wicks for oil lamps. The Greeks wrote of a cloth you cleaned in blazing flames. The dirt was burnt away, but the cloth was left unharmed. 

Despite some of these early uses of asbestos, it wasn't until the late 1800's when the industrial revolution came about that large scale asbestos usage occurred. With the invention of the steam engine and modern advances, there was a greater need for a material that would meet the needs of intense heat and friction.

 
WHY IS ASBESTOS A HEALTH RISK?

Asbestos is most dangerous when it is airborne. Because the individual fibers are so light, they can stay airborne for long periods of time and they can travel far distances. 

An estimated 1.3 million employees in construction and general industry are affected today. The highly toxic, fibrous mineral causes serious cancers like mesothelioma and asbestosis. These cancers have come into the spotlight because of the large number of people who had contracted the illnesses through asbestos. Since asbestos fibers cannot be seen, years of exposure passed without workers ever knowing that the air they were breathing was full of asbestos fibers. 

Once an asbestos fiber enters the body, it attaches itself to the lining of the lungs or other parts of the respiratory tract and remains there forever. Despite these dangers, asbestos is still found in more than 3,000 products today. 

The body cannot breakdown or eliminate inhaled asbestos fibers. A slow buildup of scar-like tissue can occur in the lungs causing asbestosis. Asbestosis has typically been observed in asbestos workers. Asbestos is known to cause other cancers such as lung cancer, mesothelioma (a cancer of the chest and abdomen) and cancer of the gastrointestinal tract. 

There are no symptoms of asbestos exposure. A person does not cough, sneeze or have itching, and therefore you cannot tell if asbestos is in the air or if you have inhaled it. Symptoms of the above cancers do not show up until many years, sometimes 15-20 years, after exposure has occurred.

Most people are exposed to small amounts of asbestos in our daily lives. These small amounts do not usually cause health problems. However, if asbestos materials are disturbed, causing fibers to become airborne, a health hazard can occur. Most people who contract asbestos related illnesses have been exposed to high levels of asbestos for long periods of time.

 
WHAT IS FRIABLE?

Friable means that the asbestos containing material can be easily crushed, crumbled or pulverized if handled. This causes small fibers to be dispersed in the air, thus causing a health hazard.

 
HOW DO I STAY PROTECTED?

Asbestos is not always an immediate health hazard. If materials that contain asbestos are kept in good condition, it is recommended to leave the materials alone with periodic surveillance to monitor the condition. Asbestos only becomes a hazard when asbestos-containing materials are disturbed (renovations, remodels, demolitions, etc.) or the materials become damaged. When this happens, the fibers separate and may then become airborne. Once in the air they can be breathed by individuals, thus becoming a hazard.

 
WHERE CAN ASBESTOS BE FOUND?

Most products today do not contain asbestos. Many Federal regulations, along with manufacturers voluntarily removing asbestos from their products, has decreased the products which could be a hazard. But many materials still contain asbestos. Until the 1970's many types of building products and insulation materials used in homes contained asbestos. Some of the areas asbestos may be found are: 

  • Steam Pipes, Boilers, and Furnace Ducts 

  • Resilient Floor Tiles (vinyl asbestos, asphalt, and rubber) 

  • Sheet Flooring and Adhesives used for installing floor tile. 

  • Cement Sheet, Millboard and Paper used as insulation around woodburning stoves.

  • Door Gaskets in furnaces, wood stoves, and coal stoves. 

  • Soundproofing or Decorative Material sprayed on walls and ceilings. 

  • Patching and Joint Compounds for walls and ceilings, and Texturing 

  • Asbestos Cement Roofing, Shingles and Siding 

  • Artificial Ashes and Embers used in gas-fired fireplaces

  • Fireproof Stove-Top Pads, Ironing Board Covers and certain Hairdryers sometimes found in older homes. 

  • Automobile Brake Pads and Linings, Clutch Facings and Gaskets 

  • Some Residential Roofing and Siding Shingles are asbestos cement 

  • Houses built between 1930 and 1950 may have asbestos insulation 

Asbestos may also be found in textured paint and in patching compounds used on wall and joints. Their use was banned in 1977. Hot water and steam pipes in older houses may be covered with asbestos or coved with asbestos blanket or tape.

 
WHAT CAN ADVANTAGE ENVIRONMENTAL DO?

Advantage Environmental can provide visual inspections and sample collection of suspect materials. Based on sample results, we can help you with your remediation requirements, assistance with contractor requirements and consulting services from the beginning of your project to the end.

 
WHAT IS LEAD?

Lead is a naturally occurring element found in small amounts in the earth’s crust. While it has some beneficial uses, it can be toxic to humans and animals causing health effects. Lead can be found in all parts of our environment – the air, the soil, the water, and even inside our homes. Much of our exposure comes from human activities including the use of fossil fuels including past use of leaded gasoline, some types of industrial facilities, and past use of lead-based paint in homes. Lead and lead compounds have been used in a wide variety of products found in and around our homes, including paint, ceramics, pipes and plumbing materials, solders, gasoline, batteries, ammunition, and cosmetics.

 
WHY IS LEAD A HEALTH RISK?

Lead can be in the air you breath from dust, fumes or mists. It can also settle on food, drink, cigarettes, clothing, hands and face, thus being ingested. Lead is often too small to see, so you do not know if you have been exposed to lead hazards. Young children and pregnant woman are more sensitive to lead and can easily be poisoned. Young children who teeth on items with lead paint or play around flaking paint are at great risk. 

Once lead gets into your body it circulates in your blood and is stored in the bone. Lead can build up in your body and stay there for many years. Many parts of the body can be damaged. The amount of lead that can cause health problems varies from one person to another. 

You may not have any symptoms with lead poisoning, or your symptoms may be confused with other health issues. You should see a doctor if you are exposed to lead and show any signs of symptoms outlined below.

 
WHAT ARE SOME LEAD POISONING SYMPTOMS?

Lead poisoning can be treated. The best way to treat it is to stop the exposure to lead. If the exposure stops, over time your body will be able to get rid of the lead in your system. If a person has severe poisoning, they can receive a chelation drug treatment, but it must be done under a doctor's care. Several body systems can be damaged from exposure to lead. Following are some of the symptoms: 

Nervous System and Brain

  • Headaches 

  • Tired all the time 

  • Irritability 

  • Difficulty sleeping 

  • Poor concentration 

  • Memory loss 

  • Shakiness 

  • Clumsiness 

  • Weakness in arms and legs 

Blood-Forming System

  • Weakness 

  • Tiredness 

  • Anemia 

Kidneys

  • High blood pressure 

  • Kidney damage 

  • Kidneys shut down

Digestive System

  • Nausea 

  • Constipation 

  • Diarrhea 

  • Lack of appetite 

  • Stomach ache 

Pregnant Women and Children

  • Miscarriage 

  • Birth defects 

  • Lead easily crosses the placenta and can harm the baby 

  • Slow learning 

  • Behavioral problems 

Lead can also cause problems with both men and women reproductive organs.

It can also be stored in bones causing muscle, bone or joint aches.

 
WHERE CAN LEAD BE FOUND?

Many industries come in contact with lead. Some of the materials listed below often contain lead. 

  • Lead (or lead coated) metal products 

  •  Metal alloys, especially brass, bronze, pewter, and "white metal" 

  •  Solders, caulks, window glazing, fillers and mortars 

  •  Paints and painted surfaces 

  •  Pigments in inks, dyes and ceramic glazes

  •  Glass, including crystal and ceramic glass frits

  •  Plastic and rubber additives 

  •  Bullets and explosives

  •  Adhesives, sealants, lubricants 

  •  Miscellaneous scrap metal materials

 
WHAT CAN ADVANTAGE ENVIRONMENTAL DO?

Advantage Environmental can provide visual inspections and sample collection of suspect materials. Based on sample results, we can help you with your remediation requirements, assistance with contractor requirements and consulting services from the beginning of your project to the end.