Hazardous substance experts agree that no amount of asbestos exposure is safe. That's why emergency medical technicians should act accordingly when they encounter the toxic mineral or suspect its presence.
Asbestos is the naturally occurring mineral once used extensively in construction throughout much of the 20th century. Manufacturers coveted it for its ability to protect products from heat and strengthen most everything. Although its use has dropped significantly in recent decades because of its now well-known toxicity, the danger remains as it lingers behind walls, under floors, in attics and other hidden places. The threat for an EMT is its prevalence in any residential or commercial structure built before the 1980s. Exposure to asbestos can lead to a variety of serious long-term respiratory issues, including asbestosis, mesothelioma cancer and lung cancer.
An EMT must stay vigilant and be aware of his surroundings to protect himself from potential exposure.
When arriving on a site, it is important to assess the area, and the structure, to which you are called.
Asbestos is not a serious threat when it's contained and well encapsulated, but a structure damaged by fire, an explosion or the normal aging process will release microscopic asbestos fibers that can be unknowingly inhaled or ingested while doing your job.
Here are a few tips to remember:
Suspected carcinogens in the dust have led to thousands of cases of respiratory illnesses. Many of these are serious.
Although early symptoms of the 9/11 exposures include eye, skin, nose and throat conditions, some of cancers, such as mesothelioma, are now manifesting themselves.
Mesothelioma has a lengthy latency period (10-50 years) between exposure to asbestos and diagnosis. The average life expectancy, however, is not so lengthy.
Although the danger today may seem minimal, the long-range problems are not worth the risk. Stay safe.