Asbestos in Packings and Gaskets

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It is no secret that asbestos can cause serious health problems. Everything, from breathing troubles to cancer, has been associated with this group of minerals, resulting in its ban in commercial buildings in the 1970s. However, that doesn’t mean asbestos still isn’t used today to some degree. Whether it is in an older building that has yet to eliminate its usage or another country that has yet to pass legislation banning the material, asbestos is still a real risk.

People should be aware of one such application of the mineral known as asbestos packing. Asbestos was long used as gaskets and in other packing devices due to its great heat resistance. Asbestos packing was also used in areas that might incur great friction or high pressure. It was often commonplace on ships, meaning those in charge of replacing the gaskets were exposed directly to the asbestos.

Especially troubling was the rate of exposure for those in charge of making the gaskets in the first place. This involved mixing dry asbestos with rubber in order to create the asbestos packing, or sheet packing, as it is often called. Even people and the family members of those who worked in these plants received some level of exposure to asbestos.

While asbestos packing is often sealed, it still poses a risk when it breaks down. As this asbestos-containing product breaks down, it will likely release asbestos fibers into the air when disturbed. These fibers could lodge in the lungs for years and cause many problems if inhaled.

Some of the health risks associated with asbestos exposure include inflammation of the lungs, breathing problems, pleural plaques, pleural effusions, lung cancer, colorectal cancers, gastrointestinal cancers and mesothelioma.

All of these conditions can be debilitating and painful. Mesothelioma is especially grim as it almost always comes with a fatal diagnosis. Mesothelioma is a very rare form of cancer that affects the lining of the heart, lungs and abdomen. This form of cancer is always a result of asbestos exposure.

In short, asbestos exposure is very dangerous. Although prolonged exposure carries the greatest likelihood of illness, even a brief exposure can cause a disease many years down the road. To protect yourself from asbestos exposure, whether it is from asbestos packing or some other product, educate yourself. It is the first step to keeping you and your family safe from this potent carcinogen.