Asbestos is a hazardous air pollutant that is regulated by the state and federal governments. The State of Delaware regulates how persons work with asbestos and also regulates those who train persons to work with asbestos. Another important component of the asbestos program is managing asbestos activities in state facilities which includes all public schools.
Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral found in certain rock formations. Most of the asbestos used in the United States today comes from Canada. Three kinds of asbestos are most commonly used in construction in the United States: chrysotile, “white asbestos”; amosite, “brown asbestos”; and crocidolite, “blue asbestos”.
Asbestos was called the “miracle fiber” because it could be used in so many different products. Asbestos was not expensive, easy to work with, and it was abundant. The fibers were great additives because they didn't burn and the fibers were durable, strong, flexible, and could be woven into cloth like material. Over 3000 different products were made using asbestos. Some of these included pipe insulation, sprayed-on fireproofing, boiler insulation, floor tiles, ceiling tiles, brake pads, clutches, plasters, mastics, adhesives, gaskets, asbestos gloves, siding shingles, roofing materials, fire curtains, and thousands more products.
In the 1960's evidence began to emerge showing that workers who were employed in the mills, manufacturing facilities, and shipyards, that had heavy exposures to the airborne asbestos, were at high risk of developing an asbestos-related disease.
These diseases are asbestosis, lung cancer, and mesothelioma. The most important source of exposure is inhalation of the fibers. The fibers are very small and can remain in the air for several hours and in some cases days. The ones that can be inhaled deep into the lung are too small to see and have no odor. Asbestosis (not a cancer) is a chronic lung condition where the lungs become scarred and thickened. Breathing becomes very difficult and the disease may get worse even if the person stops working with asbestos. This is similar to “Black Lung” that the coal miners contract. Tobacco smoking greatly increases the risk of developing lung cancer. Mesothelioma is a rare cancer of the lining of the lung or abdominal cavities and is almost always fatal. None of the asbestos-related diseases have early warning symptoms and are usually diagnosed several years after the disease begins to develop. It can be 20-40 years after exposure before symptoms start to develop.
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