Why asbestos is so dangerous
During the 20th century prospectors found large deposits of asbestos near Nelson and Westland an exciting discovery for mining companies. Asbestos is an easy to use, fire proof mineral and once these deposits were found, manufacturing companies set to work making pipes and roofing.
But while the deposits were high quality there was never enough yield for export to succeed. And workers started to show alarming illnesses.
Asbestos in its mineral form
Asbestos is friable, meaning it can easily be crushed into smaller pieces. Think of how simple it is to reduce chalk into dust. Asbestos dust is actually made of invisible needles which float in the air and when inhaled, lodge themselves into delicate lung tissues.
The process of illness is slow. Lungs respond to the asbestos fibres with an immune response, but the special cells designed to digest the fibres can’t fight them off resulting in thick scar tissue which over time, prevents the transfer of vital oxygen to the body. If the fibres get into the fluids surrounding the lungs they can tangle themselves into the DNA of human cells-ultimately resulting in cancer.