Asbestos refers to a group of naturally occurring minerals in the environment; asbestos fibers are heat and fire resistant, and can be separated into strong, durable threads. Since asbestos fibers do not conduct electricity, it has been used in a variety of industries in the United States since the late 1800s, but it was used heavily during World War II.
Since World War II, asbestos has been used for insulation, roofing, sound absorption, and fireproofing. In the construction industry, it’s been used to strengthen cement. In shipbuilding, it’s been used to insulate all kinds of things, such as hot water pipes, steam pipes, and boilers.
The automotive industry used asbestos for clutch pads and brake shoes, and it’s also been used in plastics, tiles, coatings, paints, and even children’s crayons.
In the past 40 years, there has been a growing body of evidence about the health hazards of asbestos. In the late 1970s, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) banned using asbestos in gas fireplaces because the fibers were released into the environment.
In 1989, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) banned companies from finding new uses for asbestos. However, the uses developed prior to 1989 were not prohibited.
Since the health hazards associated with asbestos exposure have been confirmed, the use of asbestos across all industries has significantly declined in the U.S. In 1973, domestic consumption of asbestos was 803,000 metric tons, but by 2005 it had dropped dramatically to about 2,400 metric tons.
ASBESTOS EXPOSURE IN THE WORKPLACE
Over the years, millions of workers have been exposed to asbestos in their occupations and it’s led to many disorders of the lungs and gastrointestinal tract. If asbestos is disturbed, it can send tiny asbestos fibers into the air. When people inhale asbestos fibers, they can get trapped in their lungs, where they can remain for years.
As these fibers accumulate over time, they can lead to scarring and inflammation, which can impair breathing and lead to extremely hazardous health conditions, such as lung cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute (NIH).
The NIH reports that asbestos exposure increases the risk of mesothelioma, a rare cancer that affects the thin membranes that line the abdomen and chest. Additionally, the NIH reports that asbestos exposure is linked to an elevated risk of:
- Gastrointestinal cancer
- Colorectal cancer
- Throat cancer
- Kidney cancer
- Esophageal cancer
- Gallbladder cancer
The NIH says that everyone has been exposed to some asbestos throughout their life, but most people do not become sick from minimal exposure. Those who become ill from asbestos exposure are people who are exposed to it regularly, and usually through a job where they come into direct contact with it asbestos or through heavy environmental contact.
Since the 1940s, millions of workers in the U.S. have been exposed to asbestos, many of whom include people who were exposed through asbestos mining and manufacturing asbestos products, through the insulation and building trades, automotive manufacturing, shipbuilding, and many other trades.
If you have been exposed to asbestos fibers through your work and are experiencing shortness of breath, a persistent cough, blood in the fluid coughed up from the lungs, chest pain, difficulty swallowing, or if you have been diagnosed with lung cancer or mesothelioma, we urge you to contact our firm to discuss filing a workers’ compensation claim, even if it’s been years since the exposure.