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Asbestos, The Silent Killer

Fewer situations speak truer to the phrase "hindsight is 2020" than the use of asbestos in construction. Hailed as a breakthrough in building technology in the 1930s, asbestos was used in construction materials because of some of the unique properties it provided. The fibrous makeup of asbestos meant that it provided strength without adding much weight. Couple this with its insulating and fire-resistant properties, and its addition to building materials, from cement to paint, made it seem like a no-brainer to use in new constructions.

Unfortunately, there was no way of foreseeing the disastrous consequences of asbestos for decades. By the time it was discovered, its use was widespread across the globe, and New Zealand was no exception.

The use of asbestos in New Zealand was only banned in the late 1980’s, creating a huge timeframe for its widespread use around the country.

But what makes asbestos so dangerous? To understand this, it is first important to know exactly what asbestos is. Asbestos is a term used to describe six naturally occurring silicate minerals. These silicate materials are all composed of thin crystals, with each fibre being made out of microscopic fibrils. Unfortunately, these microscopic fibrils can be released into the atmosphere due to abrasion and other processes. These fibrils are undetectable by the human eye and are easily inhaled, leading to irreversible damage to those exposed to them. This causes a variety of serious lung diseases such as asbestosis (a severe lung condition specifically caused by exposure to asbestos) and even cancer.

"Silent killer" is not used hyperbolically. Exposure to asbestos can lead to death.

While there are treatments to alleviate and slow the symptoms of asbestosis, there is no cure.

Jumping forward in time to the present day and thousands of homes and commercial buildings still require asbestos removal and decontamination. But there is a huge problem in the asbestos removal industry with work being "completed" to an unsatisfactory level, which can actually lead to environments being more hazardous. The simple "removal" of asbestos materials without the forethought or consideration of the impact it has (and has had) on the surrounding area is not enough. For example, if an inexperienced company were to remove an asbestos ceiling from a home, they might end up doing more harm than good. This is because they often don't take into consideration things like carpets and drapes that have been slowly contaminated over time. Furthermore, removing the ceiling may cause further abrasion to occur, releasing even more deadly microscopic fibrils into the air. This means that even when the contaminated ceiling has been removed, a family may return to their home and be exposed to even higher levels of asbestos than before - contaminating their home's air, carpet, drapes and even surrounding soil.

Once this has happened, the difficulty and work required to decontaminate an area rise exponentially.

There is no "safe" level of exposure to asbestos, and the maximum recommendation of exposure to airborne asbestos fibres is concentrations that do not exceed 0.01 fibres/ml. Sites that have undergone incorrect removal procedures are known to have a contamination level of 1000 fibres/ml. That is 1000x above this range.

No one deserves the painful conditions caused by asbestos exposure. Whether that be employees, family or loved ones, the consequences of inhaling asbestos are frightening, severe, and even fatal. Keeping people safe from this "silent killer" means that there is no room for error, no half measures, and no shortcuts when it comes to the removal of asbestos. Experience and expertise cannot be undermined by cost and speed when it comes to saving peoples lives.

Advanced Environmental Services knows and understands the risks associated with asbestos removal and decontamination. We do not take the risks involved lightly. We understand the roll-on effect incorrect removal techniques cause. Because of this, we are industry leaders in asbestos removal, with strict protocols and procedures to ensure that sites are left safe and decontaminated once a job has been completed. Our workmanship reflects the priority we place on your safety, and our experience ensures that you can rest assured that you're not inhaling this silent killer.

 

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