Asbestos Exposure: What You Need to Know

Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that was utilized in numerous structure materials and other items for years since of its toughness and fireproof properties. Asbestos is located in rocks and soil. Due to its flexibility and resistance to heat, chemicals, and electrical power, it has been used for several years to make construction materials, cars and truck parts, and even fabrics.

Asbestos can produce dust that, when inhaled, ends up being transferred into the lungs due to its durable, fibrous nature—triggering or adding to the advancement of critical, deadly health issues of asbestosis and mesothelioma cancer. However, diseases like these generally need long-term and repetitive exposure to trigger illness, so one-time exposure is seldom an issue.

Where Can Asbestos Be Found?

Professions and industries that have generally seen employees exposed to a substantial level of asbestos are:

  • Construction, renovation, and demolition of commercial and residential structures
  • Ship-building
  • Paper mills
  • Mining
  • Heating and cooling devices repair
  • Automotive repair
  • Manufacture of items consisting of asbestos
  • Roofing
  • Janitorial tasks in buildings that contain deteriorating asbestos

These hazardous asbestos fibers are most commonly discovered in items such as:

  • Insulation in walls and attics
  • Vinyl tiles utilized for flooring
  • Shingles
  • Siding on houses
  • Blankets that protect hot water pipelines
  • Fabrics that resist heat (curtains, blankets, and doors).
  • Car brakes

These lists are not exhaustive. So, if you do not see the occupation or product in which you were exposed to asbestos, it does not mean that you were not exposed to asbestos.

Anyone whose work brings them in close contact with asbestos can breathe in fibers released in the air; this is called occupational exposure. Workers' families might also breathe in asbestos fibers released by clothes that have been touched with asbestos-containing materials; this is called para-occupational exposure. Others that live or work near asbestos-related operations might inhale asbestos fibers that have been launched into the air by such an operation; this is called neighborhood exposure.

The amount of asbestos in which someone is exposed can vary according to:

  • The duration of direct exposure.
  • The build-up of fibers in the air.
  • The person's breathing rate.
  • Any protective devices the person might be wearing.
  • Climate condition.

Even though it is known that the risk to workers increases with considerable exposure and longer exposure time, examiners have found asbestos-related illness in people who only had brief exposure. In addition, it is common for workers who establish asbestos-related diseases to not show indications of illness for an extended quantity of time after their first exposure. It can take between 10 to 40 years for signs of an asbestos-related disease to appear. Due to this lapse of time issue, many states enable individuals to file claims within a certain quantity of time after the health problem or condition was discovered.

How Does Asbestos Exposure Happen?

Asbestos exposure happens when tiny asbestos fibers end up being airborne. This harmful mineral dust remains in the air for hours, putting anybody close by in danger of inhaling or ingesting it. It may take anywhere from 48 to 72 hours for asbestos fibers to settle in an ideal environment with few interruptions. However, if the dust is interrupted, it can quickly become airborne, again, due to its density.

Many people are exposed through their profession. Professions in manual work and knowledgeable trades present a more significant threat of asbestos exposure. U.S. Veterans were among the most vulnerable because of the armed force's past reliance on asbestos products, particularly on Navy ships.

Business and home restoration are also unsafe since numerous older buildings have asbestos-containing materials. When common asbestos products found in houses begin to break down or are sanded, cut, drilled, or disturbed in any other way, tiny fibers get in the air.

Although ecological and secondary exposure is not as typical, it still happens frequently. Of course, almost everyone will breathe in some amount of asbestos in their lifetime, but trace amounts seldom cause health issues.

Health Risks of Asbestos Exposure

When microscopic asbestos fibers are breathed in and swallowed, they can become trapped inside the body's digestive or respiratory tract. Although the body can get rid of some of these asbestos fibers, many fibers get stuck completely.

There is no amount of asbestos exposure that is safe; nevertheless, the majority of problems just emerge after years of exposure to the cancer-causing agent. When asbestos fibers collect in human tissue through recurring direct exposure, they cause inflammation and DNA damage. With time, this damage causes cellular changes that can result in cancer and other diseases. And the combination of smoking cigarettes and asbestos exposure multiplies the hazard, producing an even more significant health risk.

Cancers Caused by Asbestos Exposure:

  • Mesothelioma: A rare and incurable cancer that develops in the lining of the lungs or abdominal areas.
  • Lung Cancer: Cancer that starts in the lungs and generally occurs in people who smoke; however, asbestos-related lung cancer comprises roughly 4 percent of all lung cancer cases.
  • Laryngeal Cancer: Disease in which cancerous cells form in the tissues of the larynx. In 2006, the National Institutes of Health validated that asbestos triggers laryngeal cancer.
  • Ovarian Cancer: type of cancer that begins in female organs that produce eggs. In 2012, The International Agency for Research on Cancer confirmed that asbestos causes ovarian cancer.

Noncancerous Conditions Caused by Asbestos:

  • Asbestosis: Inflammation and scarring of lung tissue, which inhibits the lungs from expanding and relaxing normally
  • Pleural plaques: Areas of fibrous thickening of the lining around the lungs—the most common sign of asbestos exposure
  • Pleural Effusion: Small locations of thickened tissue in the lung lining or pleura that causes problem breathing
  • Diffuse Pleural Thickening: Substantial scarring that thickens the pleural lining of the lungs that triggers chest pain and breathlessness
  • Pleurisy: Severe inflammation of the pleural lining, also known as the pleuritic pain
  • Atelectasis: The complete or partial collapse of the entire lung or area of the lung that occurs when the tiny air sacs (alveoli) within in the lung become deflated or possibly filled with alveolar fluid

Mesothelioma, the most common result of asbestos exposure, is a tumor brought on by breathing in asbestos fibers, generally forming in the lining of the lungs, abdomen, heart, or other organs. These fibers ultimately wedge in the mesothelium, a protective membrane that covers these organs, offering the body a tough time ridding the toxic fibers. Many different kinds of mesothelioma cancer can result depending upon where the fibers took a trip in the body. The most typical signs of mesothelioma consist of:

  • Cough (dry and bothersome)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest discomfort
  • Weight loss and loss of appetite

Can I Avoid Being Exposed?

Asbestos is so common that everybody has been around it eventually in their life. It's in water, soil, and the air. However, when somebody is exposed to such a low level, it is not likely to make somebody ill.

Asbestos permeates the air as materials that contain it are demolished. So, for instance, when buildings are destroyed or houses are renovated, asbestos can fill the air. Repairs and house maintenance can also launch these damaging fibers. So, people have less to be worried about if they are around asbestos products that have not been damaged in any way.

Since 1970, the U.S. government has controlled the use of asbestos. For instance, it has not been mined or processed in this country for rather a long time; nevertheless, it is still utilized in certain products like cement pipes, clothing, and brake pads. But the EPA has banned it in paper, floor covering felt, artificial fireplace cinders, and other items. Thus, the chances of getting related diseases are low unless somebody works directly with asbestos daily.

In events like 9/11, where hundreds of tons of asbestos entered the air, it is most likely that rescue workers, nearby residents, and those who aided with cleanup efforts might have inhaled it. However, the long-lasting results of the direct asbestos exposure will not be understood for several years.

Asbestos Exposure Regulations

Because of the health issues that asbestos produces, like mesothelioma and asbestosis, any brand-new use of asbestos was temporarily prohibited in the United States in July 1989. Because this year, the EPA released Asbestos: Manufacture, Importation, Processing, and Distribution in Commerce Prohibitions, to eventually ban approximately 94 percent of asbestos being used in the U.S. However, that guideline was later abandoned after a challenge in the federal court, subsequently overthrowing the 1989 ban. In 1990, the EPA restricted the use of spray-on materials, including more than 1 percent of asbestos in structures, structures, and other applications.

Even with federal government guidelines, asbestos-related legal suits have been regularly filed since the 1960s and continue being routinely filed today. However, no matter its legality of many applications involving asbestos, following the overthrowing of the 1989 ban, many producers have largely prevented utilizing it to limit their legal exposure.

Employees' Rights to Protection From Asbestos Exposure

If individuals work with or around considerable quantities of asbestos as part of their job, or if a person is worried about asbestos exposure in the workplace, it is crucial to seek advice from a manager or union about any health dangers as well as the steps that are being taken to decrease those threats.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and other work environment security firms are expected to keep track of and handle asbestos exposure on the job carefully-- they even set legal exposure limitations for different kinds of industries. If a profession involves exposure to significant amounts of asbestos, the employer is legally needed to take certain steps that safeguard staff members from any health threats involving asbestos.

Depending upon the industry and the specifics of a job, a staff member may be legally entitled to receive, and the company might be legally obligated to provide, the following type of on-the-job protections from asbestos exposure:

  • Properly ventilated workspaces
  • Training of employees who will be working with and around asbestos
  • Monitoring of employees for asbestos exposure levels (such as daily monitoring for workers involved in the removal of asbestos-containing materials
  • Warning signs and instructions in areas where asbestos-related work is performed
  • Protective clothing (such as coveralls, gloves, foot coverings, face shields, and goggles)
  • Showers and other post-exposure precautions
  • Medical examinations for specific workers who are exposed to excessive amounts of asbestos

If you believe that your work conditions are hazardous or your employer is not appropriately protecting you from asbestos, file a confidential problem with OSHA.

Compensation for Asbestos Exposure Injuries

The results of harmful asbestos exposure are usually long-term and irreversible. Although the law seeks to put a hurt individual in their position prior to the injury, this is generally not possible. However, monetary payment believed to amount to the victim's damage is awarded. Thus, a plaintiff who can prove that they were exposed to asbestos may have the ability to recover for both the economic and non-economic consequences of said exposure, consisting of but not limited to:

  • The expense of past and future healthcare
  • The cost of required rehab
  • Lost previous and future earnings
  • Lost earning capability
  • Lost enjoyment of life
  • Emotional distress
  • Previous and future pain and suffering

Punitive damages may also be granted to plaintiffs. Punitive damages are meant not to compensate victims for their losses but to penalize the defendant’s wrongdoing. Although these damages are unusual, they still are an option to some. The amount of punitive damages awarded is likely based upon the accused's wealth and the level of the wrongdoing. And some states require that a portion of the punitive damages awards be paid to the state.

Why the Cochran Firm?

The attorneys at The Cochran Firm are among the nation’s most successful and tenacious attorneys. When navigating through the legal process, you deserve to have an experienced attorney by your side. The Cochran Firm attorneys know how to fight for you.

Here at The Cochran Firm, our experienced attorneys are ready to help mesothelioma victims due to asbestos exposure. Our attorneys work closely with each of our clients using pooled resources and their access to legal expertise to ensure the most effective legal representation available is provided.

If you are concerned about potential asbestos exposure, or if you or a loved one has suffered from mesothelioma due to the asbestos exposure, please contact The Cochran Firm today for a free, no-obligation initial consultation. We serve clients throughout the United States.

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