Many people have heard about asbestos and know that it’s a dangerous material, but very few people know what it actually is. Hazmat technicians play an important role in making sure that asbestos is removed and disposed of properly. If you’re interested in pursuing a career as a hazmat technician, or are just learning more, read these 4 facts about asbestos.
Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that was widely used in commercial and residential settings in the 20th century. Asbestos was a component in insulation, drywall, roofing and other construction materials. It is still used legally in some products, but it is no longer legal in products that are friable, meaning they can be crushed by hand.
Asbestos is dangerous when the fibers become airborne, so typically when the material containing the asbestos is crushed, cut, sanded, drilled, or broken. Without proper safety equipment and precautions, you can inhale asbestos fibers. Asbestos is the only known cause of mesothelioma, a rare and deadly form of cancer that can take 40 to 50 years to show symptoms. Asbestos fibers never leave the body once they are inhaled or ingested, so the preventative measures taken by hazmat technicians are critical.
Precautions don’t just need to be taken by the people working to remove asbestos; asbestos fibers can stick to clothing or equipment and be transferred to people other than hazmat technicians or construction workers. Failing to take proper safety measures and use proper protective equipment can put others at risk as well.
Depending on where the asbestos is located and what material it is found in, hazmat technicians have 3 options; seal, cover, or remove. Sealing or covering both leave the material containing the asbestos where it is, but limit the possibility of the fibers being released. Removal can be more complicated or difficult, but also effectively eliminates the possibility of future exposure.
Hazmat technicians play an important role in making sure that asbestos is properly removed and disposed of. If you are interested in a career as a hazmat technician, contact IUPAT to learn more about how to get trained for this very important job.