For several decades, asbestos has been used as an insulator and a fire-proofing material due to its extreme flame retardant properties. That’s why it was a choice material for fire fighters for so many years. It was incorporated into gloves and fire suits. Asbestos was also commonly used in another fire fighting product—the fire blanket.
Fire blankets were and still are used to place over someone in order to put out a fire that may have caught on their clothes or skin. Asbestos fire blankets could be found in boxes in many buildings, waiting to be used. Fire blankets are also thrown over small fires, such as those that start in kitchens or on barbecues in order to put out the flames. Modern day fire blankets are often made of fiberglass or wool that has been treated with a flame retardant chemical. However, older fire blankets were made from asbestos fiber and could be found in boxes in many buildings, waiting to be used. And while they were effective at putting out fires, it could put those near the blanket at risk.
It is imperative that you be extremely cautious when disposing of old fire blankets. While asbestos is not necessarily dangerous when in stable and new condition, it becomes dangerous as it degrades, causing the microscopic fibers to spread into the air. It is when these fibers are inhaled that all sorts of health problems occur.
One problem that asbestos exposure can cause is asbestosis. Asbestosis is a condition that causes inflammation and scarring of the lungs. This can lead to heart failure in some cases. Many types of cancer are also the product of asbestos exposure including lung cancer, stomach cancer and colorectal cancers. However, the most noted form of cancer that asbestos can cause is mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is a type of cancer that affects the membranous lining of the chest and abdomen, and more specifically, the linings of the heart, lungs and stomach.
Most conditions that arise from asbestos exposure do not show symptoms for many years. It can take from 10-40 years for symptoms to show up in some cases. However, in the case of mesothelioma, this is unfortunate as once the symptoms make themselves known, the disease has often already progressed to an advanced stage making treatment difficult.
When disposing of asbestos fire blankets, make sure you take extreme precaution. Follow the guidelines of consumer disposal services and if you’re uncomfortable completing the job yourself, hire a professional to do it. Asbestos is something you never want to take risks with.