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Study Shows Dangers of Asbestos Dust are Pervasive

The toxic nature of asbestos was proven a long time ago, and is not up for debate in the United States. Though the material was used ubiquitously in shipbuilding, factories, industrial settings and construction prior to the 1980s, the majority of its use has been eliminated since the substance was largely banned following revelations about its dangers. Asbestos has been directly linked to a number of serious diseases, including lung cancer and asbestosis, as well as the rare and fatal form of cancer malignant mesothelioma.

Though asbestos is no longer being used in construction, the fact that it was used so extensively in prior years means that those responsible for installing it were extensively exposed to its dangers, and that those who are now tasked with either demolishing buildings in which it was used or in making repairs are also very much in danger of inhaling asbestos dust. In order to determine exactly who is most at risk from asbestos found in the joints in wallboards and other aspects of construction, scientists from ENVIRON International Corporation decided to investigate and run tests to see exactly what the quantity of asbestos dust is that makes people sick. Their concerns were for those engaged professionally in construction projects, as well as do-it-yourselfers who would likely be unaware of the dangers posed by their home repair projects.

ENVIRON’s researchers interviewed contractors, inspected buildings known to be contaminated with asbestos, and looked at previous study results in order to create an algorithm that determined “personal breathing zone respirable dust concentrations” and calculated the level of risk for a variety of scenarios. They concluded that those who were in the most danger were professional drywall specialists whose entire occupation revolved around working with drywall compound old and new. This group was prone to a number of lung diseases. Following the drywall specialists were general contractors who also work with drywall, and then the do-it-yourselfers who were the least likely to protect themselves.

The group concluded that, “These concentrations are estimated to be in excess of the respective current but not historical threshold limit values.” They believe that even if people are working amid levels of dust that are considered to be safe, there is a danger that comes with a cumulative exposure. As a result, they recommend that even though a situation may be deemed safe, those working with drywall use “diligence in the use of readily available source controls,” including protective gear.

Terri Oppenheimer

Terri Oppenheimer is an experienced blog writer, editor, and proofreader. She graduated from the College of William and Mary with a degree in English. She specializes in providing content for websites and finds tremendous enjoyment in the things she learns while doing her research. Her specific areas of expertise include health, medical research, and law.

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