Over the past several decades, exposure to asbestos has been linked to several types of cancers, most notably mesothelioma. Asbestos is a group of naturally occurring fibrous minerals that became prevalent during the Industrial Age due to its fire-proofing and insulating capabilities. It was commonly used in the construction, manufacturing, and railroad industries as well as within the military.
As the mining and manufacturing of this toxic substance increased dramatically, so did the poisonous health effects on those mining, manufacturing, and using the mineral. Through the years, it has become apparent that occupational-level asbestos exposure is not required for someone to develop an asbestos-related disease. Factors such as environment, one’s living quarters, and use of asbestos-containing products have played a role in mesothelioma diagnoses not associated with occupational exposure.
Living in a mining or factory town presents serious risks. In areas where asbestos is naturally occurring, developers must not disturb the environment in such a way that will release the asbestos. Natural disasters, as well as mining in areas such as California, have led to asbestos release.
Despite asbestos not being mined or processed in the United States anymore, it can still be found in use today. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), there are several asbestos-containing products that have not been banned from manufacture, importation, processing and distribution in commerce. Some of these products include:
- Cement corrugated sheet
- Cement flat sheet
- Clothing (limited to specialized fireproof clothing for specific professions, such as firefighters)
- Pipeline wrap
- Roofing felt
- Vinyl floor tile
- Cement shingle
- Cement pipe
- Friction materials
- Non-roofing coatings
- Roof coatings
- Vehicle (including airplanes, helicopters and ships) parts such as brake pads, clutches, and certain types of gaskets
Bystander exposures have also affected family members of workers who were exposed to asbestos through their job. The asbestos fibers are brought into the home on the shoes, clothing, skin, and hair of workers. Spouses have contracted mesothelioma by doing the worker’s laundry; children through something as simple as a hug. Additionally, dry cleaners are at heightened risk if they washed the uniforms of mill workers. The constant exposure increases the risk of developing an asbestos-related disease.
Asbestos can be found in many older buildings and dwellings built prior to the 1980s. Renovations or any other kind of disturbance to these structures can put their occupants, as well as those in the surrounding area, in danger.
First responders experience higher risk levels when entering older homes and buildings. As a result of the tragic events of 9/11, many first responders were exposed to hundreds of tons of asbestos fibers after the towers collapsed. Since there is a latency period of between 10 to 40 years from the time of exposure to illness, many of those first responders are just now experiencing health affects related to asbestos exposure.
If you or a loved one have been exposed to asbestos or are experiencing any symptoms related to mesothelioma or other asbestos-causing diseases, it is important to consult a doctor. If an asbestos-related diagnosis has already been received, contact an asbestos attorney immediately to discuss your legal rights and potential compensation.