What are the risks associated with asbestos?

L'amiante c'est quoi ?

Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral composed of thin layers of agglomerated fibres. It has been commonly used in the manufacture of insulation and firewalls as well as in other building materials because of its strength. Unfortunately, asbestos also poses health risks when the fibres break loose and circulate freely in the air, as the presence of these particles in the lungs can attack the lining of the lungs and sometimes cause cancer.

Dangers of asbestos

What are the risks associated with asbestos?

L'amiante est dangereux pour la santé. Toujours présent dans les maisons, les écoles… il peut causer des cancers et des maladies.

Une fois endommagé, l’amiante peut constituer un vrai danger pour la santé. Il peut se diviser en fibres extrêmement fines (un dixième, voire un centième de micron) et longues (100 fois leur diamètre). Si on le scie, le ponce, le rabote ou le démousse par exemple, l'amiante devient respirable et se glisse jusque dans les alvéoles pulmonaires.

Les fibres d'amiante sont persistantes : les défenses du corps ne sont pas capables de les évacuer. Elles favorisent divers cancers, qui mettent souvent longtemps à se déclarer. C'est pourquoi il faut prendre ses précautions avant de l'enlever et le jeter.

Diseases related to occupational exposure

  • Asbestosis is the most common disease. It is a pulmonary fibrosis caused by intense and prolonged (10 to 20 years) inhalation of asbestos dust. It results in a progressive decrease in respiratory capacity. Severe cases can be fatal.

  • Lung cancer can appear after intensive exposure to asbestos. It takes a long time to appear: 20 to 30 years after the initial exposure. Not all lung cancers are linked to asbestos, tobacco being the most common cause.

  • Risky jobs are linked to the renovation or maintenance of buildings: plumbers, heating engineers, electricians, carpenters, etc. They regularly work in buildings where asbestos has been used. There is also a significant risk of exposure for people working on badly managed decontamination sites.

Risk of cancer

L'amiante favorise l'apparition de plusieurs cancers :

  • Mesothelioma. It is a cancer of the pleura (outer lining of the lungs) or the peritoneum (lining of the abdominal cavity). Mesothelioma is not related to high or long-term exposure and can develop even after low or short-term exposure. It can therefore strike outside the workplace. It takes a very long time to develop: 30 to 40 years after exposure.

  • Cancer of the larynx

  • Ovarian cancer

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