How Asbestos Gets Into Our Soil, Air and Water, Causing Damage to Humans and Animals?

Today we have to worry about everything. Concerned people are constantly thinking about our air quality, water purity and soil condition. Not only do we have to worry about direct pollution from human waste and littering, but we have to take into account the impact of the many things humans make on a daily basis. The byproducts of human ingenuity aren’t just iPads and fidget spinners, they’re industrial contaminants and runoff that threaten the environment on a global scale.

These pollutants are often the result of mass production that refines natural materials into what we use everyday, and what’s left over becomes a problem. These leftovers often pollute our environment, risking the lives of humans, animals and the planet.

Combatting these threats is not only important, but vital to everyone’s quality of life moving forward. Being aware of contaminants and how they affect us is important work, especially because not all threats are known entities. One pollutant that seems to have slipped under the radar of most environmentalists is asbestos.

What is Asbestos?

Asbestos is a naturally occurring silicate mineral mined in long, thin fibers to exploit its desirable qualities for human use. These properties afford asbestos a resistance to heat and flames, sound absorption, tensile strength and electrical insulation. It also has the upside of being affordable to mine and refine, making it a go-to miracle material for much of the 20th century. Because of its natural properties, asbestos has become most commonly associated with the construction and raw materials sectors.

With the amount of legal action and general upheaval over asbestos, most people are under the impression it’s been banned completely. However, varying levels of regulation associated with this mineral exist around the globe. The United States still allows for asbestos to be contained at levels of one percent or less in products, whereas Australia has banned it altogether.

Uneven regulation makes it difficult to know exactly where you might come into contact with this carcinogen. Beyond the fear that asbestos might still be in products manufactured today is the worry of products manufactured and used decades ago, before the mineral’s hazards were known. The practice of removing asbestos is known as asbestos abatement. Older homes, buildings, cars and even ships are likely to contain traces of asbestos somewhere, so it’s important to determine if any sort of abatement work has been performed.”

How it Gets Into Soil and Water?

Asbestos fibers are microscopically small, which allows them to become easily airborne. Once airborne, they’re likely to settle into the surrounding environment or become inhaled by creatures, human and animal alike, around the area of exposure. If asbestos is allowed to settle freely into soil and water, it becomes a time bomb waiting to be disturbed.

Asbestos is easily released into the environment when places where the fibers exist are disturbed. Either by mining or disturbing places where the fiber exists, it gets released into the environment. This could be anything from breaking a piece of insulation while renovating an old house to stripping a 1950’s boat for parts.

Environmental Concerns

Air Pollution

Air pollution is the biggest worry because asbestos is most dangerous when inhaled into the lungs. This kind of contamination has been linked most heavily to asbestos-related diseases. Asbestos is friable, which means it’s prone to crumbling easily and releasing invisible fibers into the air. Not only is this an issue for general air cleanliness, but once asbestos settles into your lungs it puts you at risk for mesothelioma, which can form in the lining of your lungs, heart, or abdomen.

Water Pollution

A 2016 study performed in Tuscany, Italy, found that asbestos in water may be linked to asbestos-related diseases. For years, people without any direct exposure to asbestos have been getting diagnosed with these diseases, which has continued to confound doctors, patients and officials. However, the study solved that mystery by asserting, “exposure to asbestos by ingestion could explain the epidemiological finding of mesothelioma in subjects certainly unexposed by inhalation.”

In the United States, water cleanliness is ensured by the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), which restricts the levels of certain pollutants in our drinking water. However, this isn’t a “hail mary” protecting drinking water from harm. The SDWA is enforced by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which has been fallible of late. Just look at Flint, Michigan, for proof that rules and regulations don’t always halt water contamination and subsequent poisoning.

Soil Pollution

Soil pollution stems mainly from air pollution, when asbestos fibers that were airborne settle into the ground. There they lie in wait, and if disturbed pose a threat to animals and humans. Thankfully, no link has been made between soil pollution and damage to plant life, but this is just one more danger to look out for.

Health Concerns

Asbestos is perhaps best known for being linked to a host of health problems called ‘asbestos-related diseases.’ Asbestosis, lung cancer, and mesothelioma are the most common concerns. Chief among these is mesothelioma, a cancer that develops in the delicate linings of internal organs.

This kind of cancer has three varieties: pleural, which forms in the lining of the lungs; peritoneal, which affects the abdominal lining; and pericardial, which infests the heart’s lining. Mesothelioma, apart from being aggressive and rare, is also very subtle. It has an incredibly long latency, taking up to 50 years from exposure to diagnosis. Once the disease is diagnosed, prognosis is often bleak. Due to both the aggressive nature and latency period, life expectancy often isn’t long.

Even limited asbestos exposure can lead to these complications, and they aren’t limited to humans only. Asbestos may also be dangerous to pets and wild animals, though these cases are rare. This does point out the need for unilateral asbestos regulations and abatement across industries. If this mineral is continued to be released into the air, water, and soil, more and more cases will pop up, not only in humans, but in animals too.

The Takeaway

Industrial contamination has been causing environmental problems for years. This term typically covers man-made materials that become dangerous or decay when released into the environment, causing great damage to the ecosphere. It’s hard to think about minerals naturally found in our environment as being dangerous, which is why asbestos isn’t usually at the top of the list for ecological concerns.

With the rate of environmental collapse, it’s important to remember that all toxins are dangerous and all industries should be held accountable. If you think asbestos might be present in the environment around you, make sure to contact a professional to assess the situation. By safely disposing of the toxic mineral, it will reduce the chances of others being accidentally exposed and possibly developing an asbestos-related disease years later.

Image credit: Crucial Environmental
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About Rinkesh

A true environmentalist by heart ❤️. Founded Conserve Energy Future with the sole motto of providing helpful information related to our rapidly depleting environment. Unless you strongly believe in Elon Musk‘s idea of making Mars as another habitable planet, do remember that there really is no 'Planet B' in this whole universe.