Exposure to asbestos isn’t as rare as it might seem. While the majority of asbestos exposure happened prior to the 1980s, there are plenty of ways that you and your family could still be exposed today. Knowing where this exposure could happen can lower your risks of contracting an asbestos related illness.
Isn’t Asbestos Banned in the United States and Canada?
While there are several instances where asbestos is no longer legal to use, like corrugated paper, flooring felt, pipe insulation, boiler insulation, spray-applied surface finishes and wall patching compounds, there are just as many applications that are not illegal.
For example, it is completely legal to make and distribute cement flat and corrugated sheets, clothing, pipe wrap, roofing felt, vinyl floor tiles, cement shingles, automatic transmission parts, clutches, disk and drum brakes, gasket materials, and roof coatings that contain considerable amounts of asbestos.
Also, just because other applications of asbestos are now illegal, this doesn’t mean that already existing materials were removed or replaced. This means there are still several places materials containing asbestos can be encountered.
How Could You Be Exposed to Asbestos?
In the past, asbestos miners and manufacturers who were exposed to the material for several hours a day over long periods of time were the most likely to develop diseases like asbestosis and mesothelioma. In addition, those who installed, maintained, or demolished materials that contained asbestos were also in the high risk category. This was mostly due to the fact that they were not wearing protective gear to prevent inhaling or swallowing asbestos fibers. Here’s a short list of industries where asbestos exposure was, and still may be, likely:
• Shipyard workers
• Railroad workers
• Demolition workers
• Pipe Fitters
• Steel Mill Workers
• School teachers
Even though there is plenty of evidence of the harmful effects of asbestos exposure, businesses do not have to eliminate it from their property. According to federal law, “Employee exposure to asbestos must not exceed0.1 fiber per cubic centimeter (f/cc) of air, averaged over an 8-hour work shift. Short-term exposure must also be limited to not more than 1 f/cc, averaged over 30 minutes.”
In addition to the workers themselves, family members of people who work or worked around asbestos can also be at risk. Asbestos fibers often attach themselves readily to clothing materials. When the asbestos filled clothing was handled it could release asbestos fibers into the air. These could be inhaled by any member of the family in the vicinity. There have been several instances of former mine workers wives being diagnosed with mesothelioma from being exposed to asbestos while doing the laundry.
Living near an area that manufactures asbestos products may also increase your risk of inhaling airborne asbestos. This was the case in the community of Libby, Montana. There was a vermiculite mine in Libby that also contained asbestos. Several of the local residents suffered from asbestosis from inhaling the dust thrown up by the mine.
The vermiculite that was mined in Libby also accounted for over 70 percent of all vermiculite sold in the United States between 1919 and 1990. This vermiculite was all laced with asbestos. Vermiculite from Libby was used in the Zonolite vermiculite insulation used in attics and walls across the country. So, if you have Zonolite or any other vermiculite insulation is your home, it probably contains asbestos.
What Are the Health Hazards of Exposure to Asbestos?
There are currently no studies that link short term exposure to asbestos to any illnesses but there is also no level of exposure that is considered safe. The EPA considers asbestos to be a cancer causing agent in humans and has placed it as a Group A carcinogen.
Chronic inhalation exposure to asbestos can lead to asbestosis, a disease in which there is scarring throughout the lungs. This is a progressive disease that continues to become worse with age, even after exposure to asbestos has stopped.
Other effects from airborne asbestos exposure include pulmonary hypertension and immunological effects as well as an increase in gastrointestinal cancer which has been linked to ingestion of asbestos fibers.
What Are the Symptoms of Mesothelioma Disease?
The symptoms of exposure to asbestos usually don’t start to surface until 20 to 50 years after the initial exposure. The first symptoms usually include shortness of breath, difficulty in breathing, and excess coughing. Because these aren’t necessarily seen as life threatening problems, sufferers often don’t take them seriously. If the symptoms last for over a week or return frequently, you should seek medical attention and let your asbestos concerns be known.
If you or a loved one has been exposed to asbestos and have been diagnosed with mesothelioma you have a right to compensation. Bergman Draper Oslund law firm specializes in mesothelioma cases, having won over $700 million for our clients. Our professional team will fight for you and get you compensation. Call us today for a no-obligation consultation. We can be reached at 206-957-9510 or toll free at 888-647-6007.