A new report from the Environmental Working Group estimates that nearly 10-thousand Americans die from diseases related to asbestos — a substance used in building materials. The report says asbestos-related illnesses kill more Americans each year than skin cancer, and nearly the same number who are killed by firearms. Brian Button of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources says people who work with asbestos or in professional demolition are at the highest risk — but weekend fixer-uppers can also be at risk. Button says there’s a misconception that asbestos is no longer put into construction materials. He says the E-P-A banned asbestos products in 1989, but that was overturned in 1991. He says there were 30 million tons of asbestos products used since the turn of the last century. Button, an air quality specialist, says inhaling asbestos fibers is the big danger. So when you start tearing out walls or cutting and sanding on that home improvement project, you may create the danger.He says it can be found in everything from attic insulation to linoleum flooring. Button says you should do some research before stirring up potentially hazardous dust. He says if you’re going to engage in some sort of home work project, you should doe some research to see if the materials might contain asbestos. Button says for a small fee you can have the materials tested for asbestos, and then have the professionally removed. Button says if you inhale asbestos fibers, you may not know it for some time. He says it can decades for any symptoms of asbestos exposure to show up, and it’s expected the number of people with asbestos-related exposure to increase in the next few decades. Button says asbestos poses little health risk if the material is in good condition and left undisturbed. For more information about asbestos visit: www.iowacleanair.com or www.epa.gov.
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