Exposure to asbestos has been linked to the development of respiratory complications, asbestosis, mesothelioma, and other cancers and conditions. Patients may be exposed to asbestos in work environments, homes, or any location which may have asbestos in either the building materials or products within. Asbestos has long been used for many different commercial and industrial purposes. Patients that have developed a health condition as a result of asbestos exposure may be entitled to compensation for medical costs and other expenses. It is important to find an experienced asbestos attorney when pursuing legal action for asbestos exposure, as asbestos lawsuits may become complicated.
What is Asbestos?
Asbestos is the name given to a group of minerals that occurs in nature. These minerals are naturally heat resistant and do not conduct electricity. Asbestos is mined, and can be used in many different applications.
After World War II, asbestos became widely used to strengthen cement and plastics. Asbestos was found to effectively aid in sound absorption, insulation, and fireproofing, which made the materials ideal for use in roofing and building construction. Asbestos was used within steam pipes and boilers in both buildings and ships because of the heat resistant properties. Asbestos was also used in hair dryers, paints, adhesives, tiles, and crayons.
Ban on Asbestos
In 1970, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission instituted a ban on the use of asbestos in certain applications that were found to release the asbestos fibers into the environment during use. In 1989, this ban was extended by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to disallow all new uses of asbestos. The EPA also began to require schools to remove or encase asbestos in order to limit student and staff exposure to the material.
Asbestos Exposure Hazards
Asbestos becomes hazardous when the fibers are disturbed and become airborne. When these airborne fibers are breathed in, the fibers become lodged in the lungs. Over time, the fibers can build up and produce scar tissue and inflammation. This can cause breathing difficulties and make the individual more susceptible to the development of lung and respiratory conditions. These risks are greatly increased by prolonged or frequent exposure to asbestos, especially if coupled with secondary risk factors such as smoking.
Conditions Linked to Asbestos Exposure
Conditions that have been linked to asbestos exposure include:
- Lung cancer
- Throat cancer
- Kidney cancer
- Gallbladder cancer
- Pleural plagues
- Pleural effusions
Diagnosing Asbestos-Related Conditions
If an individual suspects that a lung condition is the result of asbestos exposure, physicians can perform a biopsy to effectively detect asbestos fibers in the lungs. A bronchoscopy, which is less invasive, may also be used to detect asbestos fibers in materials which are rinsed from the lungs. While these tests can be used to detect asbestos, these tests will not assist with determining whether a condition will develop. Separate tests must be performed to accurately diagnose lung conditions resulting from asbestos exposure.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has established regulations regarding asbestos exposure in the workplace. Employers are required to closely follow these regulations in order to protect employees, and may be subject to penalties if the regulations are not properly followed. These regulations are especially strict in industries such as mining, ship construction, and building construction. If employees have asbestos concerns, an OSHA representative can be contacted to inspect the workplace.
Employees that have been exposed to asbestos may be entitled to compensation for lost wages, medical bills, and other expenses. It is important to contact an experienced asbestos attorney, as these conditions may develop as long as 40 years after exposure to asbestos. An asbestos attorney may be able to provide assistance with compiling medical records, testimony, and other evidence to prove that a condition has developed as a direct result of asbestos exposure.
Who is liable for an individual’s asbestos-related illness depends on a number of factors. The company that installed the asbestos or the employer that did not follow regulations and remove the asbestos may be responsible for work-related asbestos exposure. A previous homeowner, a real estate agency, or a company that did not properly remove asbestos may be responsible for asbestos exposure in a home. An asbestos attorney can help to determine the liable party or parties after speaking with a patient and performing further investigation into the cause of asbestos exposure.
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“Safety and Health Topics | Asbestos.” United States Department of Labor. U.S. Department of Labor. Web. 28 Sept. 2014. <https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/asbestos/>
“What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Asbestos-Related Lung Diseases?” National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Web. 28 Sept. 2014. <http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/asb/signs.html>