Asbestos Poisoning

Written by Jill Morrison
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Asbestos poisoning may occur from breathing airborne asbestos fibers or by drinking water affected with asbestos particles. It is very difficult to determine poisoning from asbestos since health effects may not arise for periods between 15 and 40 years. Asbestos cannot be detected by the naked eye. Therefore it is often difficult to determine whether or not asbestos is present without the use of proper testing.

Testing for Asbestos Poisoning

Personal exposure to asbestos can be tested in a few different ways. Asbestos fibers can be detected in samples of mucus, urine, or feces. Chest x-rays are another option because they can detect the early signs of lung disease that may be caused by asbestos exposure. Symptoms of asbestos exposure may not become evident for many years following exposure to asbestos. However, these symptoms may include coughing, difficulty breathing, and shortness of breath.

Asbestos can be found in thousands of products, including paper, building, cement, friction, textile, plastic, and packaging materials. Though asbestos is neither soluble nor volatile, its small fibers can be found in suspension in both air and water. Therefore, it is important to test building materials and products to see if they are made from asbestos. After finding materials made from asbestos, determinations must also be made about whether or not these materials could be hazardous to health.

Materials can be tested for asbestos by mailing small samples to a certified laboratory. Three separate samples that are each about the size of a nickel are recommended for testing. The cost for testing is fairly inexpensive and results can be determined quickly. To find a certified lab, individuals may check their local Yellow Pages for the names of licensed contractors, or they may contact the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).


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