Health Risks of Asbestos Water Tanks Exposed
Asbestos was extensively used in building materials in the 1930s. The material is resistant to fire, heat, and electricity. It is also a good insulator and can be used for different purposes. Regrettably, later studies revealed alarming health risks of asbestos exposure. Long-term exposure to asbestos fibres was linked to serious lung diseases including cancer.
Here we will take a look at the health risks of asbestos and explain the importance of removing damaged asbestos water tanks by licensed contractors.
Asbestos: What is It?
Asbestos is a naturally occurring silicate material. It is composed of thin fibrous crystals each of which consists of millions of microscopic fibrils. These fibres can be released into the air by abrasion or other processes. They are known by their colours, such as green asbestos, brown asbestos, blue asbestos, and white asbestos.
Here is a brief description of the three most common types of asbestos generally used in building materials.
1. Blue Asbestos
Blue asbestos, also known as crocidolite, has been generally used for industrial use. The material was commonly used for pipe insulation and thermal insulation in industrial settings. In addition, the material was commonly used in spray-on coating and cement products including water tanks.
2. White Asbestos
Also known as chrysotile, white asbestos is the most common type of asbestos used in construction products. It has been commonly used in walls, ceilings, roofs, and floors of commercial and residential properties. The material was generally used in pipe insulation, brakes, boiler seals, and cement products. The asbestos is classified as serpentine mineral and was known for its high heat resistance and flexible usage.
3. Brown Asbestos
Brown asbestos is known as amosite. The material has been commonly used in building materials to provide sound insulation. This was due to the high absorption capacity of the material. Moreover, the high heat resistance and tensile strength of the material made it a common material for structural steel.
The use of blue and brown asbestos started to be phased out in the late 1960s when strict measures were taken against materials that were considered a health hazard. However, it was not until 1986 that the two materials were formally banned in the UK. The prohibition was introduced after the passage of the Asbestos (Prohibitions) Regulations of 1985.
White asbestos continued to be used in construction materials and was finally banned in the UK in 1999. As a result, buildings that were constructed before 2000 may contain asbestos containing materials including water tanks.
What are Health Risks Associated with Asbestos Exposure?
Asbestos fibres are released into the air when a product containing asbestos is damaged. Inhaling the fibres can lead to serious health complications. The health issues do not manifest immediately. Instead, it can take decades for the symptoms to become apparent. Most often, the condition is diagnosed after extensive damage is done to the body.
When an asbestos water tank is damaged, it results in release of asbestos fibres. The microscopic fibres become suspended in the air that when inhaled can become trapped in the air sacs of the lungs. This ultimately leads to a reduced capacity of the lungs to take in oxygen and expel carbon dioxide. It results in the formation of cancer and other diseases related to the respiratory tract later in life.
Here are some of the most common and serious health risks that are associated with asbestos exposure.
Mesothelioma is a form of lung cancer. The cancer affects the peritoneum and pleura. The peritoneum refers to the lining around the lower part of the digestive system. The condition is exclusively linked to asbestos exposure, and is mostly fatal. Here are some of the common symptoms of mesothelioma.
- Difficulty in breathing
- Pain in the chest
- Dry coughing
- Abdominal swelling or pain
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Problems in blood clotting
Lung cancer associated with mesothelioma looks similar to the lung cancer that results from smoking. By the time the condition is detected, it’s often too late to do anything.
Asbestosis is another serious health complications that result from exposure to asbestos fibres due to damaged water tanks and other building products. The condition generally occurs after heavy exposure to asbestos fibres. Symptoms of asbestosis include the following.
- Laboured breathing
- Pain or tightness in the chess
- Difficulty in swallowing
- Loss of appetite and weight
- Blood in the throat mucus
- Swelling of the face or neck
- Crackling and dry breathing
- Soft fingernails
- Bulging or misshapen finger
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An important aspect of the disease is that it is progressive in nature resulting in shortness of breath. In severe cases, the disease can be fatal.
3. Pleural Thickening
Asbestos exposure can also lead to thickening of the pleural. The condition happens after long-term exposure to excessive levels of asbestos. It causes the lining of the pleura in the lung to swell and thicken. In case the condition gets worse, the lung becomes squeezed that results in difficulty in breathing.
Most cases of asbestosis become apparent about 15 years after the initial exposure. The symptoms of mesothelioma become apparent only after 30 years. Most of the asbestos-related health disorders have similar symptoms. If you experience any of the symptoms that have been mentioned above, you should immediately contact your general physician. The symptoms do not necessarily mean that you may have lung cancer. Having said that, you should still consider seeing a GP to make sure that it’s not something serious.
Majority of the people who suffer from asbestos-related diseases are industrial workers. However, in some cases, household family members suffer from the disease. Anyone who is exposed to asbestos fibres while at work or at home can contract the disease. Moreover, the family members of the worker who have been exposed to asbestos can also develop the disease. They can contract the disease when the fibres are transported from the skin, hair, or clothing.
Risk Factors for Asbestos Related Diseases
The risk of an individual catching a disease depends on different factors such as the nature of the fibres, the extent or period of asbestos exposure, whether the person smokes or already suffers from a lung disease.
Keep in mind that the symptoms of asbestos exposure can be aggravated if you smoke. There is a greater chance of developing a lung cancer after asbestos exposure if you smoke.
Important Facts Regarding Asbestos
Asbestos is a health hazard when inhaled or ingested. The material is not combustible. Even at high temperatures, the material is not flammable. This is the reason why the material has been extensively used a building material. Due to high heat resistance properties, the material containing asbestos cannot be disposed of by burning.
Another noteworthy fact about asbestos is that it is classified as a hazardous waste. This means that the material must not be buried. It is mandatory that the asbestos containing product is disposed ofsafely by a licensed contractor.
You should note that asbestos fibres are not visible by the eye. They can only be detected when a sample taken from the site is placed under a microscope. Without a microscope, the asbestos fibres cannot be detected. Each fibre of asbestos is about 3 to 20 micrometer wide. To get some perspective, they are about 10 times smaller than the human hair. The fibres are released when the material containing the asbestos is damaged or disturbed. Leaving the material alone is the only way to avoid dangerous health consequences.
The size of the asbestos fibres is so small that they float in the air for a long period of time. They can easily enter the body when a person ingests or inhales the air. The fibres can get stuck on the clothes. That’s why it’s important that the clothes that have been contaminated with asbestos fibres should be cleaned thoroughly. It’s even better to dispose of the clothing that has contaminated with asbestos fibres. Avoid putting the contaminated clothes in the home washing machine. This is necessary to avoid contamination of other clothing items.
Another myth regarding asbestos exposure is that you will sneeze, cough, or itch after coming into contact with asbestos fibres. The reality is that you won’t feel anything after being exposed to asbestos. Asbestos symptoms became apparent decades after initial exposure to asbestos. Often, the disease has caused irreparable damage to the body at that time.
Some people think that asbestos water tanks may have a peculiar smell as compared to non-asbestos containing materials. The reality is that asbestos containing materials smell and look the same as products that don’t contain asbestos. So, you can identify asbestos material through appearance or smell.
Only licensed contractors can determine the presence of asbestos. They take samples and analyse them in the labs to detect asbestos exposure. In case the test comes out positive, you should immediately get the licensed contractor to remove the asbestos tank from the premises.
Should Asbestos Containing Material Always Be Removed?
An important thing to keep in mind is that asbestos containing material is not required to be removed in some cases. In case the asbestos water tank is not damaged, it may be more cost-effective if you leave the material in place.
Most old homes have a large amount of asbestos containing building materials. However, there is no need to demolish the house. In case the asbestos containing product is not damaged, it poses little risk. You should get the material removed only in case the material is severely damaged. It’s only when the asbestos water tank is damaged does it pose a health hazard. Having said that, if you have extra money at your disposal, you should consider taking a proactive step of contacting a licensed company to remove asbestos containing product from the house.
Legal Regulations in the UK Regarding Asbestos Removal
You should know about the legal regulations regarding asbestos in the UK. The Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 was introduced in April 2012. This legislation improved on the previous European Commission Directive that came into force in 2009.
The UK regulations had clarified the legal requirements to reduce the risk of asbestos exposure. The regulations require that all asbestos removal work should be carried on by licensed contractors. Contractors that are licensed to provide asbestos removal services are required to have a high level of training of the staff.
What is the Cost of Asbestos Water Tank Removal?
The cost of asbestos water tank removal depends on the size of the water tank and location of the property. Generally, the price of domestic tank disposal starts from £150, while the price of domestic water tank removal starts from £300.
Apart from the asbestos removal costs, you may also have to pay for site inspection cost. The cost of testing and sampling of asbestos starts from £6.5 per test. Some companies provide discounts when numerous tests are required for detecting asbestos at the site.
When calculating the cost of asbestos water tank removal, you should also consider the cost of relocation and redecoration. These costs will increase the total cost of removing asbestos from the premises. So, you need to take these costs into account when determining the total costs.
Why Contact a Professional Contractor for Asbestos Water Tank Removal?
You should never try to remove or replace asbestos water tank yourself. Some people do remove the water tank themselves and then bury the material. However, this is highly unadvised as you can expose yourself and the household to deadly asbestos fibres.
The task of removing and replacing asbestos should be carried out by professional contractors. It’ not a DIY task that you can complete on your own. It’s absolutely necessary to wear protective gear when undertaking the job. Not taking proper precautions can result in exposure to asbestos fibres that can result in dangerous health complications. Trying to cut cost at the significant health risk of asbestos exposure is not a wise move.
Getting the work done through unlicensed contractors requires additional requirements including medical surveillance, notification of work, and record keeping. This puts increased administrative burden that adds up to the cost of asbestos removal.