Asbestos can be found in all sorts of household products. Common kitchenware and electrical wiring have been known to have asbestos components in the past. And even though the majority of asbestos uses were banned in the mid-1970s, there are still some cases where asbestos is used. One such case is potting soil and fertilizer.
Potting soil and fertilizer have been known to contain a specific mineral called vermiculite that often contains asbestos. While the danger of this presence of asbestos has not been concretely calculated, it is safe to assume that breathing in any fertilizer dust would be a bad idea. This is because asbestos is made up of microscopic fibers and when these fibers are released into the air, they can be inhaled or ingested and become lodged in the lungs.
When asbestos fibers get into the lungs, they can cause inflammation and eventually scarring, resulting in a condition called asbestosis. Asbestosis can cause breathing difficulty and heart failure. Exposure to asbestos can also cause various forms of cancer including lung cancer, stomach cancer and rectal cancer. Smoking greatly increases your risk of developing lung cancer after asbestos exposure.
Another form of cancer that only those exposed to asbestos can develop is called mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is cancer of the lining of the heart, lungs and abdomen.
All of these conditions may not present symptoms for several years. In fact, it may be up to thirty years before you ever experience symptoms related to asbestos exposure. This goes for those that work with fertilizer everyday like gardeners or auto mechanics that breathe in asbestos-laden brake pad dust. The problem with this is that once symptoms are present, the diseases are often quite advanced, making successful treatment difficult.
While just working in your garden probably won’t give you cancer, it is best to be on the safe side. Use pre-mixed potting soil to limit your exposure to vermiculite. Always wear gloves and you may even opt to wear a mask of some sort to limit inhalation of dust. While asbestos in fertilizer is not as much of a problem as it used to be, it is still a relevant one. Take note of the products that contain asbestos and hire a professional immediately if you think there is any insecure asbestos in your home. Whatever you do, don’t try to remove asbestos on your own. You could be putting yourself at risk for exposure.