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POLLUTANTS voc

ASBESTOS

Asbestos is a fibrous material, consisting of natural mineral fibers belonging to the family of silicates and to the mineralogical series of serpentine (chrysotile or white asbestos) and amphiboles (crocidolite or blue asbestos).

Mineral fibers include both natural fibrous materials, such as asbestos itself, and artificial fibers, including glass wool, rock wool and other related materials.

Currently its use is prohibited by law, however the release of asbestos fibers from pre-existing structural elements inside buildings can occur due to slow deterioration of materials that contain it, or direct damage of it by the occupants or maintenance operations.

Asbestos is usually found in a compact form, incorporated in cement compounds (asbestos cement on the roof, flues etc.) or in other compounds (linoleum floors, walls, panels, etc.), but it is also possible to find it in a powdery, more dangerous form where it has been used as soundproofing or insulation on suspended ceilings and/or walls.

Health effects

Asbestos fibers in the environment inevitably involve damage to health, even where very few fibrous elements are present. It is a carcinogen Particularly harmful to health is asbestos cement (better known as “eternit”), a mixture of asbestos and particularly brittle cement and therefore subject to damage or crushing. The greatest risks are related to the presence of fibers in the air. Once inhaled, the fibers can be deposited inside the airways and on lung cells.

Fibers which get deposited in the deepest parts of the lung can remain there for several years, even for life. The presence of these foreign fibers inside the lungs can lead to the onset of diseases such as asbestosis, mesothelioma and lung cancer. Mesothelioma is a type of cancer that develops on the membrane that covers the lungs (pleura) and other internal organs. Its occurence is strongly related to the presence of airborne asbestos and its appearance occurs after 15-30 years. Like mesothelioma, lung cancer also usually appears many years after the start of exposure and can also arise from exposure to low levels of asbestos.

The carcinogenic effect of asbestos is increased in smokers, or more generally in those exposed to other pollutants (e.g. exhaust gases, industrial fumes, etc.). Although in a lesser form, intestinal tract and laryngeal disorders related to exposure to asbestos have been found.

Health effects

Asbestos fibers in the environment inevitably involve damage to health, even where very few fibrous elements are present. It is a carcinogen Particularly harmful to health is asbestos cement (better known as “eternit”), a mixture of asbestos and particularly brittle cement and therefore subject to damage or crushing. The greatest risks are related to the presence of fibers in the air. Once inhaled, the fibers can be deposited inside the airways and on lung cells.

Fibers which get deposited in the deepest parts of the lung can remain there for several years, even for life. The presence of these foreign fibers inside the lungs can lead to the onset of diseases such as asbestosis, mesothelioma and lung cancer. Mesothelioma is a type of cancer that develops on the membrane that covers the lungs (pleura) and other internal organs. Its occurence is strongly related to the presence of airborne asbestos and its appearance occurs after 15-30 years. Like mesothelioma, lung cancer also usually appears many years after the start of exposure and can also arise from exposure to low levels of asbestos.

The carcinogenic effect of asbestos is increased in smokers, or more generally in those exposed to other pollutants (e.g. exhaust gases, industrial fumes, etc.). Although in a lesser form, intestinal tract and laryngeal disorders related to exposure to asbestos have been found.

Measures to reduce exposure

Exposition

Being a carcinogen, exposure should be avoided, even at low concentration levels, since a minimal exposure is sufficient to suffer the harmful effects.

Reclamation

The remedial works and disposal of existing structures (eternit, pipes, coatings for power plants, etc.) deserves a separate discussion. In this case, always refer to qualified personnel, or local and regional authorities (ASL Local Health Authority, Health Protection Agency and ARPA Regional Agency for Environmental Protection).

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