What’s the problem with asbestos?
Asbestos can break down into microscopically thin fibres which can enter the lungs. The fibres can linger in the air for days and are easily breathed in. This can cause various serious and dangerous diseases including mesothelioma (cancer of the lining of the lung cavity), lung cancer, and asbestosis (scarring of the lung tissue). It can also expose you to cancers of the digestive system.
As the fibres are too small to see, taste or feel, there is no indication of their presence, so you do not you are breathing them in. They don’t make you sneeze or make your throat or skin itch.
What if you find asbestos?
There are two actions to take.
One is to call a specialist to measure the asbestos in the air. No amount of asbestos is considered safe so immediate action needs to be taken if asbestos is found.
The second is to see your doctor. This applies to everyone who may have been exposed. There is no external evidence of exposure so it is likely that you will need a chest x-ray. This will not identify if fibres are present, but it will detect any damage to the lungs. The problem is that there is a latency of up to 40 years so it may take a long time for any disease to manifest.
Unfortunately, Australia has one of the highest mesothelioma mortality rates in the world, in fact, second only to the United Kingdom, so the seriousness of this issue cannot be understated.