Asbestos is a fibrous material, mechanically resistant and very resistant to high temperature and harmful chemical effects. Often, it is used to make fabrics used for reinforcing cement and plastics. Can one exposure to asbestos be harmful?
Health effects of asbestos
Asbestos is considered one of the most common carcinogens in the environment. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that 125 million people in the world are exposed to asbestos and occupational asbestos-related diseases cause more than 107,000. deaths per year. Hence the extensive measures currently being taken to eliminate the risks associated with asbestos dust exposure.
It is estimated that around 2 million tonnes of asbestos were imported into Poland after World War II, 90% of which was chrysotile, imported mainly from the former Soviet Union. The raw material was used in asbestos processing plants, mainly for the production of asbestos-cement products. All manufactured asbestos products remained in the human environment. About 80% of asbestos is contained in construction products, mainly in the form of roofing and facade panels and various types of pipes.
What damage can it cause?
Asbestos is only dangerous when it is crushed and its fibers get into the air – in the form of asbestos dust. If these fibers are inhaled, they can cause serious illness. However, these diseases are extremely rare among people who are not exposed to large amounts of asbestos. They mainly develop in people who regularly work or have worked on asbestos.
Asbestosis is an irreversible process of scarring in the lungs that leads to serious breathing difficulties. It can continue to develop even when a person is no longer exposed to asbestos.
People who work regularly with asbestos are more at risk for lung cancer.
Mesothelioma is an incurable cancer of the tissue lining the inside of the chest or abdomen. Its occurrence in the general population is very rare, but in the case of asbestos workers it is more likely to occur.
Diseases caused by asbestos develop very slowly. Symptoms of asbestosis can occur after 10-20 years, and symptoms of asbestos-induced cancer – even after 40 years.
What to do if exposed to asbestos?
Check your own national procedures. However, it is recommended that the asbestos contractor investigate the atmosphere in the area where contamination is suspected. If it contains more than 0.1 respirable fibers per millimeter of air, averaged over a continuous period of four hours (i.e. half the maximum level permitted by law), immediate action should be taken. Check site-specific guidelines for reporting exposure and any follow-up that may include keeping records for an extended period (up to 40 years) and regular medical check-ups every two years.
As you can see, asbestos is very dangerous, but the data cited above refers to occupational exposure, and therefore most often for eight hours a day, often at concentrations exceeding the norm (such data is provided by the Institute of Medicine at Work for the eighties). Your exposure was definitely smaller, shorter and the concentration at the landfill should be hoped, it was definitely lower than in the workplace. It is likely that your exposure is clinically insignificant, but some (difficult to determine) exposure has occurred and now it remains only to eliminate the additional factors favoring cancer or mesothelioma, i.e. avoid exposure to tobacco smoke and aromatic hydrocarbons.