Asbestos was once marketed as the “magic mineral” and is now a public health menace. It is a naturally occurring mineral substance that can be pulled into a fluffy consistency. Asbestos fibers are soft and flexible, yet resistant to heat, electricity, and chemical corrosion. Pure asbestos is an effective insulator, and it can also be mixed into cloth, paper, cement, plastic, and other materials to make them stronger. These qualities once made asbestos very profitable for business, but unfortunately, they also make asbestos highly toxic.
Types of Asbestos
Legally, the U.S. government recognizes six types of asbestos that fall into two general categories (Serpentine and Amphibole) as outlined in the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA) of 1986.
Chrysotile (white asbestos) is the most commonly used form of asbestos and can be found today in the roofs, ceilings, walls and floors of homes and businesses. Manufacturers also used this type of asbestos in automobile brake linings, gaskets and boiler seals, and insulation for pipes, ducts, and appliances.
Amosite (brown asbestos) was used most frequently in cement sheets and pipe insulation. It can also be found in insulating board, ceiling tiles and thermal insulation products.
Crocidolite (blue asbestos) was commonly used to insulate steam engines, and it was also used in some spray-on coatings, pipe insulation, plastics, and cement products.
Anthophyllite (grey, dull green or white asbestos) was used in limited quantities for insulation products and construction materials, and it also occurs as a contaminant in chrysotile asbestos, vermiculite, and talc.
Tremolite and Actinolite (brown, white, green, gray or transparent asbestos) are not used commercially, but they can be found as contaminants in chrysotile asbestos, vermiculite and talc. The chemically similar minerals can be brown, white, green, gray or transparent.
The AHERA granted the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) permission to regulate these six types of asbestos 1986, and more than 50 countries have banned them completely.
Why is Asbestos Dangerous?
Microscopic asbestos fibers cannot be seen, smelled, or tasted, and asbestos exposure does not cause any immediate symptoms, so it is easy for a person to inhale or swallow asbestos dust without realizing it.
Once asbestos fibers are in the body, they never dissolve, and the body has extreme difficulty expelling them. Over years of time, trapped asbestos fibers can cause inflammation, scarring, and eventually genetic damage to the body’s cells. Asbestos-related illnesses often take 20-50 years to develop, which means most cases diagnosed in the United States today were caused by asbestos exposures that occurred before modern safety regulations came into effect.
Occupational exposure is the primary cause of asbestos-related illnesses, followed by secondhand asbestos exposure. Asbestos-related illnesses can also develop in people who lived in a contaminated environment or used asbestos-containing consumer products on a regular basis. No amount of asbestos exposure is safe, but asbestos generally has the worst effects when a person is exposed to an intense concentration of it, or they are exposed on a regular basis over a long period of time. More asbestos accumulates in the body with every exposure, and there is no known way to reverse the cellular damage it causes. Common conditions that individuals are diagnosed with due to asbestos exposure include:
Increased Risk of COPD
Pleural Effusions, Plaques, Thickening
What Products Contain Asbestos?
For much of the 20th century, the words “asbestos” and “insulation” were used almost interchangeably in the United States. Asbestos was cheap and easy to source from North American mines, so company executives promoted as many uses for it as they could find. Asbestos became a ubiquitous ingredient in a new generation of fire-resistant construction materials including cement sheets, roof sealants and adhesives for floor and ceiling tiles. As skyscrapers came to dominate city skylines, their girders were sprayed with asbestos fireproofing. Below are a few things that might contain asbestos in your home or a business:
Automobile brake linings
Construction materials (i.e. cement sheets)
Gaskets and boiler seals
Insulation for pipes, ducts, and appliances
Who is at Risk?
The vast majority of patients with asbestos-related diseases are men in their 60s or older. The following professions are most at risk of asbestos exposure:
Asbestos Product Manufacturing
Family members of asbestos industry workers also bear an elevated risk of developing an asbestos-related disease due to secondhand exposure. Workers often unknowingly brought asbestos dust home with them on contaminated clothing and tools. Also, living in the vicinity of an asbestos-contaminated mine or processing facility puts individuals at risk of environmental exposure.
What are your legal options?
If you or a loved one have been diagnosed with mesothelioma or any of the other conditions listed above, and have had exposure to asbestos, contact our team of lawyers at McEldrew Purtell immediately by filling out our form or calling 1-866-521-0865. We are hard-working lawyers for hard-working people.