You have most likely seen the commercials on television for people suffering from mesothelioma due to asbestos exposure. What exactly is asbestos, though? How and when can people be exposed? What are symptoms of exposure? What can you do about it if you are exposed?
Understanding What Asbestos Can Do to People
What Is Asbestos?
In the 1800s, asbestos was a celebrated substance. The naturally occurring mineral was not only fireproof, but also insulating and provided strength to the fabrics and other materials it was mixed with.
It was used in everything from building materials to protective gear for firefighters. There are six different types of asbestos minerals, but the most used one is called chrysolite. All of them are odorless and tasteless.
Risks of Asbestos
Over time, the world realized that asbestos was not all that it was cracked up to be. Asbestos causes mesothelioma cancer. This type of cancer lines the lungs and other organs. When someone swallows or inhales asbestos fibers, the fibers become lodged in the lungs and abdomen. These fibers are very hard to remove.
In general, the prognosis of someone with mesothelioma cancer isn’t very good, although people can survive for over 10 years if doctors can catch the cancer early on. Illnesses related to asbestos and mesothelioma cancer cause over 10,000 deaths in the United States each year.
The connection between asbestos and mesothelioma was enough for 55 countries to ban asbestos use. All 28 nations in the European Union have banned asbestos, but in United States and Canada, we can still find asbestos in building and construction materials.
There is definitely less use of asbestos. The EPA has strictly regulated its use. In 1973, the country was consuming 803,000 metric tons of asbestos a year. We’ve gotten the number down to below 2,400 metric tons, but as lawmakers now threaten to dismantle the EPA, the future of asbestos isn’t clear.
Asbestos And Its Effects Today
Even though we are using less asbestos, we still all run the risk of asbestos exposure. 1973 was not that long ago. Your home or office building may very well have been packed with asbestos. The buildings being constructed around you may be built with asbestos. Any time you take on a home repair job, you risk asbestos exposure.
In 2001, when the World Trade Center fell, Manhattan was exposed to a dust cloud of asbestos. Over 400,000 people were exposed, and rescue crews were most affected. While some symptoms are yet to rear their ugly heads, many first responders have developed what is called the “World Trade Center Cough.” Over 70% of rescue crews from 9/11 have been affected by exposure and developed lung problems.
Whole towns have been affected by asbestos. A vermiculite mine in Libby, Montana contained asbestos, and while the company that owned the mine knew about the health problems associated with asbestos, they didn’t warn residents. Exposure and use of vermiculite around the town has killed hundreds of residents, and still affects people in the town today.
In general, however, you shouldn’t have to worry about asbestos exposure unless you work closely with it. Products simply containing asbestos are safe… until they are damaged or disturbed. While the people working in the World Trade Center did not risk getting mesothelioma, once the asbestos was disturbed, it became a problem. Firefighters, construction workers, and plumbers are some of the groups most affected by asbestos exposure.
Affected By Asbestos Exposure? You May Be Entitled To Compensation
If you work with asbestos, you should know. OSHA requires employers to warn employees about the presence of asbestos in building materials or protective clothing, as well as the risk of disturbing asbestos. Employers also need to provide employees with the proper protective gear (respirators, masks, and so on) in order to decrease risk. Abatement experts may be necessary if asbestos is present in a house or building that is being demolished or renovated.
Employers are not required to disclose this information to family members and friends of employers, but they still could be affected. Secondhand asbestos exposure can cause health problems as well.
If you are exposed to asbestos and experience health problems, you may not realize it until 10-50 years after the initial exposure. Even though your symptoms come later, you may still be entitled to compensation. Employers who do not follow proper procedures and expose their workers to toxic chemicals need to be held accountable for their actions.
If you would like to look further into an asbestos lawsuit, talk to a New York personal injury lawyer.