Prior to recognizing the dangers of asbestos, it was commonly used in a wide variety of products. This is why many workers in New Jersey are still exposed to it on a regular basis, which might lead to health problems. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, breathing in asbestos can lead to significant reduction in lung function, lung cancer, asbestosis and mesothelioma.
Because of the health hazards, there are several standards in place to protect workers, especially those in construction and who work in the shipyard. These involve reducing exposure to workers, monitoring the airborne levels and using certain protective gear to diminish the health risk as much as possible.
There are several minerals included in the group known as asbestos, including actinolite, anthophyllite, tremolite, crocidolite, amosite and chrysotile. These minerals occur naturally, but they might also be altered in some way, such as chemical treatment. Asbestos is found in building materials, pipes, floor tiles and even in certain parts of vehicles.
According to the American Lung Association, asbestosis is the term for the medical condition that occurs from breathing in asbestos. The severity of the disease ranges from mild irritation to inability to supply sufficient oxygen, which might lead to heart failure and death. The lung has a filtering system that is meant to remove any foreign particles, such as asbestos, from the body. However, the dust and fibers of this mineral resist removal. This leads to damage to the lung and a build up of scar tissue.
There is no treatment for this disease, which is why it is so important to protect workers from exposure. The length of time and level of exposure determines the extent of the damage to the lungs. It only occurs from inhaling the dust and fibers, not from other forms of the minerals.