By Emily Walsh, Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance
“Educate Americans of all ages about the risks of poisoning.” The mission of National Poison Prevention Week is quite straightforward. Passed as an official awareness week by President Kennedy, the third week in March has been the cornerstone of poison prevention since 1961.
Poisoning is a leading cause of accidental injury in the United States and accidental poisoning can happen anywhere. The goal at Made Safe is to “change the way products are made in this country to ultimately eliminate the use of toxic chemicals altogether.” Until that happens it is essential to make people aware of what toxins and chemicals food, beauty products, cleaners, and everyday household items may contain.
One toxin that is not spoken about much and may unknowingly be present in your home is asbestos. Asbestos is a naturally occurring fibrous material. The material was widely used due to its extremely durable and fire resistant qualities. When disturbed the inhaled fibers can cause many health complications, and so the government began regulating the use of asbestos in the 1970s. However, the U.S. is one of the last developed countries where it is still not banned.
Asbestos in the Home
Asbestos is most likely to be in homes and buildings built before the 1980s in various construction materials including adhesives, concrete, paint, shingles, floor and ceiling tiles, vinyl, pipes, insulation and more. Because of its properties it was also used in everyday home products that needed to be heat resistant, including hair dryers, crock pots, cigarette filters, fume hoods and more. The fibrous nature meant it was used in flame resistant textiles like oven mitts, aprons, fire blankets, carpeting and drapes. Other common uses include vehicle parts, most commonly found in brake pads, and in shipbuilding.
Recently asbestos has been found in children’s toys, mostly products that have been imported. One example from 2015 is when four brands of crayons and two crime lab kit toys were found to contain traces of asbestos (all were removed from store shelves). Asbestos use is less common today, especially since there are many readily available alternatives, but it is still important to be vigilant about what new and vintage home products are made of.
Complications of Asbestos
Asbestos is a known carcinogen. When the fibers are disturbed, during demolition for example, the tiny particles are sent into the air. If inhaled, this seemingly harmless dust can be extremely toxic for the body, especially the respiratory system. Asbestos exposure can cause and exaggerate diseases both benign and malignant, including cancers and respiratory diseases. Some of the most common are:
- Asbestosis: As a result of scarring from fiber irritation, lung tissue builds up and causes shortness of breath and a persistent dry cough
- Mesothelioma: A cancer that forms in the linking of the lungs, heart or abdomen, mesothelioma is an aggressive cancer with a poor prognosis
- Lung cancer: Though tobacco is the most common cause of lung cancer, asbestos exposure can also be a factor, especially when combined with smoking
The encouraging thing is these diseases are preventable without exposure! If you believe your home may contain asbestos do not try to remove it yourself. No level of asbestos exposure is safe. Hire a professional asbestos abatement contractor so that removal is done safely and correctly.
Like with other products, it is important to be aware. This Poison Prevention Week, educate yourself on chemicals and toxins in products to reduce your risk of accidental poisoning or injury! MADE SAFE does not permit asbestos in certified products, so look for the MADE SAFE seal on products for your body, your family, and your home.