Foundation, Concrete and Earthquake Engineering

The Facts About Asbestos Exposure

Knowing the facts about asbestos exposure will help you to protect yourself and your loved ones. The U.S. and many other governments have compiled fact sheets and created guidelines and laws for handling and reporting asbestos exposure, as well as strict guidelines for asbestos removal and abatement. Being informed about asbestos and the dangers of asbestos exposure can help you avoid becoming a statistic.

Why Asbestos Exposure is a Problem

The danger of asbestos exposure arises from inhaling and swallowing tiny dust particles and fibers. Those particles are released when asbestos is broken up or disturbed in anyway. Once the asbestos fibers have been inhaled or swallowed, they may lodge in the lining around the lungs, heart or abdominal cavity and go unnoticed for decades.

Eventually, though, they cause scarring and cell changes that can become a malignant cancer known as mesothelioma. Even when mesothelioma does not develop, asbestosis and other asbestos related conditions can cause pain, restricted breathing and other difficulties.

How Asbestos Exposure Happens

There are many ways to be exposed to asbestos, but the most common type of asbestos exposure is occupational, or work related. Asbestos was used in the construction industry, the auto industry, on the railroads and in shipyards and in many factories that made items coated with or woven with asbestos.

When the asbestos was broken, moved, sanded, poured or otherwise manipulated, fine particles and dust was released into the air, where it was inhaled and swallowed. Family and household members of people who worked with asbestos were also often exposed to the dust when it was carried home in clothing and hair.

People who lived in the vicinity of asbestos plants may have been exposed to asbestos in the environment. According to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, residents who lived near asbestos plants may have been exposed to asbestos by breathing the air within a few blocks of the plant, playing in waste piles of rock near the factories and moving or handling waste rock from processing plants.

In addition, there is a significant risk of exposure to asbestos in some older buildings where asbestos laced materials were used in construction. These materials are safe as long as they are covered and/or in good condition. However, asbestos may be disturbed during renovations, demolition or when flooring, ceilings and walls become damaged.

How to Protect Yourself from Asbestos Exposure

Although the use of asbestos in new products is now heavily regulated, there are still ways that you might be exposed to asbestos. If your home was built before 1978, for instance, it likely contains many materials that were made with asbestos.

Most of these materials only become a concern when they are disturbed or start to decay. Asbestos exposure can become a significant risk if you are renovating or dealing with the aftermath of a flood, fire or other event that damaged your home. If you're not certain about materials in your home that may contain asbestos, it's best to contact your local town offices or health department to find out about having your home evaluated for asbestos and what sort of asbestos abatement regulations apply in your area.

What You Can Do If You Believe You Were Exposed to Asbestos

Mesothelioma affects thousands of people every year. Because its earliest effects are often mistaken for the symptoms of a cold, virus or flu, it's often not diagnosed until it has progressed beyond the treatable stage.

For that reason, anyone who worked or works in a job with a high risk of asbestos exposure should have regular medical checkups that include lung x-rays, and be especially watchful for respiratory ailments which may be the earliest symptoms of mesothelioma.

In addition, when asbestos exposure combines with smoking, your risk of developing lung cancer increases astronomically. If you were exposed to asbestos in the past and you smoke, quitting now can significantly reduce your chances of developing lung cancer.

Why Asbestos Exposure is a Legal Issue

Asbestos was one of the most widely used industrial minerals through the early to mid 1970s. The companies that mined, distributed and used asbestos were very aware of the danger that asbestos posed to their workers.

Instead of warning them and providing for safer handling, the industry deliberately hid those dangers from the public, their workers and the government. In doing so, they callously exposed hundreds of thousands of workers and their families to a deadly carcinogen.

Because these companies were aware of the dangers of asbestos and did nothing to warn or protect their workers intentionally, they may be legally liable for compensating people who became ill because of asbestos and their families.

If you believe that you or a family member became ill because of asbestos exposure, a law firm experienced in handling asbestos-related cases can evaluate your claim and help you get the compensation you deserve for your loss.

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