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The word asbestos is derived from a Greek adjective meaning inextinguishable. The "miracle mineral" as it was referred to by the Greeks, was admired for its soft and pliant properties, as well as its ability to withstand heat.

Typically, asbestos was not available in large amounts until extensive deposits were discovered in Canada in the late 1800's. Following this discovery, asbestos emerged as an insulating component in thermal system insulation for boilers, pipes and other high temperature applications and as a reinforcement material for a variety of products, including acoustic ceiling materials.

Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral. It is distinguished from other minerals by the fact that its crystals form long, thin fibers. Asbestos deposits are found throughout the world, and is mined commercially in limited quantities in the United States, namely California and Vermont.

What is Asbestos

Asbestos has been used in literally thousands of products. Collectively, these are frequently referred to as asbestos-containing material (ACM). Asbestos gained wide-spread use because it is plentiful, readily available, and low in cost. Because of its unique properties - fire resistance, high tensile strength, poor heat and electrical conductivity, and being generally impervious to chemical attacks - asbestos proved well suited for many uses in the construction trades.

Common uses include fireproofing, spray on ceiling materials, added to building materials to enhance strength, exterior siding, roofing shingles and felts, wallboard, pipe insulation, floor tile, joint compounds and adhesives.
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) distinguishes between friable and nonfriable forms of ACM. Friable ACM contains more than 1% asbestos and can be crumbled, pulverized or reduced to powder by hand pressure when dry. Other things being equal, friable ACM is thought to release fibers into the air more readily; however, many types of nonfriable ACM can also release fibers if disturbed.

While it is often possible to "suspect" that a material or product is or contains asbestos by visual determination, actual determinations can only be made by instrumental analysis. The EPA requires that the asbestos content of suspect materials be determined by collecting bulk samples and analyzing them by polarized light microscopy (PLM). The PLM technique determines both the percent and type of asbestos in the bulk material.

However, some of these materials do not have to be inspected and inventoried under the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA) Rule. Asbestos-containing building materials (ACBM) as defined by the Rule excludes materials installed outside a building (e.g., roofing felt and siding) and most fabric materials.

CAS is able to perform abatement for the Residential, Commercial and Industrial markets. We have completed projects in Missouri, Kansas, North Dakota, California, Louisiana, Texas and Iowa. Our projects range in size from $500.00 to $3,000,000.00. Current licenses are in Missouri and Kansas, other state licenses can be procured if necessary.

Diseases Associated with Asbestos Exposure

The adverse health effects of asbestos were observed in the first century by the Greeks and Romans. They noted a breathing problem in slaves weaving asbestos cloth. Modern knowledge linking asbestos and a lung disease called asbestosis dates to 1900. Autopsy reports from 1938 - 1949 indicated that a large number of persons who died with asbestosis also had lung cancer. In the 1960's the link between asbestos and a rare form of cancer called mesothelioma was established.

Asbestosis is a scarring (fibrosis) of the lung. The scaring impairs the elasticity of the lung tissue and hampers its ability to exchange gases. This leads to inadequate oxygen intake to the blood. This disease is a slowly progressive disease with a latency period of 10 - 20 years.

Lung cancer is a malignant tumor of the bronchi covering. The tumor grows through surrounding tissue invading and often obstructing the air passages. Definitive diagnosis of lung cancer is based upon microscopic examination of lung tissue. The time between exposure to asbestos and the occurrence of lung cancer is typically 20 years. Although there are many causes of lung cancer, a clear increase in risk has been found among people who work with asbestos. Moreover, there is no threshold or limit of exposure below which the risk of lung cancer is not increased.

Mesothelioma is a cancer of the mesothelium, the lining of the chest or the lining of the abdominal wall. It is considered to be a marker disease for asbestos exposure. Early stages are associated with few symptoms. By the time it is diagnosed, it is almost always fatal. Effective therapy does not exist. There is not exposure threshold for mesothelioma. This is suggested by the observation that family members of asbestos-exposed workers have developed mesothelioma. Presumable, cleaning the clothes of the exposed worker exposed these individuals to asbestos dust and led to the disease. Similar to other asbestos-related diseases, mesothelioma has an extended latency period of 20 - 40 years.

Those are the 3 main diseases associated with exposure to asbestos. There are a myriad of other diseases associated, which are less common as a result of exposure to asbestos. Feel free to contact CAS for further information regarding diseases associated with exposure to asbestos.

Risks Associated with Low Level Exposure

Asbestos is known to be a carcinogen based on studies of asbestos workers and laboratory animals. However, the risks associated with low level, non-occupational exposure (for example, as an occupant of a building containing ACM) are not well established. Attempts have been made to estimate low level risks by extrapolation from occupational exposure data. This is not a straightforward process and its validity is questionable.

Based on a thorough review of the health effects literature, EPA concludes there is no level of exposure below which the risks of contracting an asbestos-related disease are zero. That is, there is no threshold level of exposure.

Asbestos abatement services include:
  1. Inspections - the contractor will enter the area of concern, using the necessary precautions, take samples of the materials in question, and send the samples to a lab for analysis.
  2. Removal - there are many methods for removal of ACM following strict guidelines set in place by the EPA, OSHA and AHERA.
  3. Encapsulation - one method of covering up the ACM.
  4. Enclosure - building a structure around the area with the ACM.
  5. Repair/O&M - repairing damaged area of asbestos by putting rewettable cloth on the area. O&M is an operations and maintenance program designed to ensure that the remaining ACM are maintained in a safe condition.
  6. Consulting/Project Design - CAS can review the clients project needs, make recommendations and design an abatement program to fit the clients needs.
  7. Air Monitoring - a system utilized to monitor the airborne asbestos fibers before, during & after work is completed.

For further information on asbestos, please contact CAS.

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Kansas City-based CAS provides services in Arkansas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska and Iowa.