Exposed to Asbestos? Get Tested!
If you think you were exposed to asbestos, don’t panic. There are several proactive steps you can take to protect your health. Not everyone who breathes airborne asbestos develops an asbestos-related disease. If you experienced a brief, one-time exposure, your risk for cancer or another asbestos-related condition is small.
Keep in mind that it can take a long time for asbestos-related diseases to develop. Most people don’t experience any signs or symptoms until 15 or more years after exposure. Mesothelioma and lung cancer typically take between 20 and 50 years to develop.
What if you’ve been exposed to asbestos but don’t have any symptoms?
Start by scheduling an appointment with your primary care doctor. Be ready to discuss any past exposures to asbestos, including where, when and for how long you were exposed. No test can detect asbestos fibers in the lungs, but your doctor can order a chest X-ray or another imaging scan to reveal signs of asbestos-related disease.
If the tests show you are healthy, you need to monitor your health moving forward. Meet with your doctor every year to discuss your exposure, and find out if more testing is needed. See your doctor immediately if you start experiencing any new symptoms, such as shortness of breath, chest pain or a dry cough.
What if you’ve been exposed to asbestos and have symptoms?
Go straight to an asbestos-related disease specialist. Specialists understand the intricacies of asbestos conditions that other physicians often miss. Seeing a specialist increases the odds of an early diagnosis and prompt treatment, which are crucial for extending the life expectancy of cancer patients.
How to Manage Asbestos Risks
When you find a material in your home that may contain asbestos, the safest course of action is to leave it alone and call a professional. Asbestos professionals are trained and certified to manage asbestos risks safely. They can inspect your home, test materials for asbestos and advise you on how to deal with existing asbestos in your home.
There are several ways professionals can manage asbestos, including:
No action: Leave low-risk asbestos in place and check its condition periodically. Maintenance: Perform minor repairs or activities that could result in exposure. Encapsulation: Enclose asbestos materials with spray sealant.
Enclosure: Build a permanent air-tight barrier around the material.
Abatement: Remove asbestos from the home.
If the asbestos is still in good condition and you have no plans for activities that might disturb it, most experts will advise you to leave it in place. In many cases, removing low-risk asbestos materials is more dangerous than managing them in place.
When hiring an asbestos professional, research is key. Get cost estimates from several companies. Look for experienced professionals who are trained and certified for asbestos work. Before hiring a company, ask for references from past clients.