I am a 16 year old male, and I have a summer job working at an office which also has a factory attached to it.
At work today, I had to transfer about 5 file cabinets worth of folders/papers into 20 cardboard boxes for storage. The cabinets were upstairs in the office attic. The attic is actually really a platform that sits between the office and the factory. There usually is never anyone up there, and anytime anyone goes up, it's usually for less than 5 minutes to grab some storage materials.
While I was working, I noticed some fluffy, yellow-grayish material sticking out of the wall where pipes were connected to them. I wondered if it might be asbestos or not but kept on working anyway. I was up in the attic for maybe less than 2 hours total, and I kept walking back downstairs to get water etc.
I asked my supervisor about it, and he said to show it to him. He took a look and said it was "probably fiberglass insulation." Later on in the day, I talked to another supervisor for whom I work, and she said there was most likely asbestos up there cause the building is over 50 years old, but the likelihood that it has broken free is rare.
I'm still a bit freaked out about it. I know asbestos can cause all sorts of problems like lung cancer, mesothelioma and lung disease. I'm not sure what to think at this point. I'm might ask one of the factory foremen or techs to come up with me tomorrow to check it out.
Other exposures I've had in the past are not very definite. Our school has been under renovation for the past 2 years, and they had to remove a lot of abestos (school was shut down for a week). I'm not sure whether or not any of it was airborne before it was removed. My other possible exposure was in shop class. We had taken apart an old car, and I remember working on the brakes, removing the pads, and cleaning the assembly off with an air hose.
This entire asbestos dilemma brought up another issue: A few years ago we had the bathroom remodeled. I don't know who the contractor was. Our house was built in 1976, and we have the "popcorn" ceilings that most likely contain asbestos. I talked to my mom about it, and the contractor was the one who tore the ceiling down, and not an asbestos specialist.
Are contractors required to test the ceiling for asbestos before attempting to remove it? We've never had our ceiling tested, and since the house was built in 1976, it most likely does have asbestos. If my worst fear is true, then the contractor tore down the asbestos-containing ceiling and spread the fibers throughout the house. I fear for my siblings, since although we were all younger at the time, my brother and sister are younger than me and will have to continue living in it (greater time exposure). My mom is convinced that nothing is wrong.
I'll have you know that I searched old emails to find my password to this site just so I could respond to your posting.
I am 46 and have had not a small amount of casual exposure to asbestos just like many people my age. Your generation is a bit luckier in that asbestos is no longer ripped out without caution like used to be done in the past.
I have read a lot about asbestos because I, too, am very concerned about my exposure and there is something I learned that may help you.
NOT SMOKING is the number one thing we can do to avoid asbestosis and mesothielioma. Yes, we try to avoid exposure, but as you found out, sometimes exposure just happens. I also try to avoid second-hand smoke as well.
My mom went to cancer support group and I met a woman who didn't smoke and had no known exposure to asbestos and she had mesothielioma. (Her husband did smoke and he couldn't wait to light up when he got outside.)
Apparently our bodies can handle more of such "toxins" if we don't add cigarette smoke to the soup. I also heard that radon exposure was more likely to cause cancer in a person who smoked.
So if you smoke, stop it now!
One source for this info is a book called "Risk," by David Ropeik and George Gray, Houghton Mifflin Co, 2002
The point that I was trying to make is that we all get occasional exposure to asbestos, but it has been determined that smoking apparently makes everything worse and increases the risk of illness. Many, dare I say, most victims of asbestosis and mesothelioma are/were smokers.
By not smoking (a habit we can avoid), we decrease the chances that minor exposure to asbestos (which we can't avoid) will turn into asbestosis or mesothelioma.
That said, I am still appalled that asbestos has not been banned in the US as it has been in Europe.
Write to your representatives in Congress about this, I did.