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Asbestos poses a severe risk to public health

While asbestos is present in the air and everyone breathes some in from the ambient air, the problem comes when someone is exposed to concentrated levels of the toxic substance over a period of time. The most common way that this occurs is through occupational exposure in which employees are in the presence of asbestos day after day in their work environment. When this occurs, in North Carolina or elsewhere in the nation, it often leads to injury or wrongful death from such diseases as mesothelioma.

Pipefitters and machinists are among the occupations that frequently suffer such prolonged exposure to lethal doses of asbestos. Asbestos is often present in buildings being demolished, and when it is, it is important to carefully handle to removal and disposal of the asbestos, using protective gear and safety protocols. This is especially important in structures previously damaged by fire or natural disaster which may have rendered much of the asbestos containing material loose or exposed.

Asbestos is found in fibrous rocks in nature. It is utilized today in over 3,000 varied products, ranging from construction materials such as floor tiles, wallboard, insulation, water pipe, clapboard and roofing shingles to commonplace items such as ropes, cement, or fireproof clothing. It is also found in appliances, such as stoves, and components such as brake linings.

Since the mid-1970s, the hazards of asbestos have become widely recognized and the Environmental Protection Agency began enacting regulations designed to protect persons who commonly work around asbestos such as machinists or pipefitters. For such workers, exposure without proper personal protective gear can be extremely dangerous.

Source: KRMG, "Expert: Asbestos poorly understood by public," Russell Mills, Oct. 9, 2012

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