What Are The Risks Of Asbestos Exposure?
Mining and commercial use of asbestos began in the 1800s, and grew significantly during World War II. Its popularity came to an abrupt halt in the 1970s however, when the United States Consumer Product and Safety Commission passed the first laws banning its use in certain products, because the asbestos fibers were being released into the environment.
In the 1980s, the Environmental Protection Agency added to those laws by banning any new uses for it, although laws still allowed for the use of it in any way that existed prior to that time. Despite the attention given to asbestos exposure, beginning with those laws, there are still many people who are unaware of what it is or what harm it presents to those who are exposed to it.
It is a mineral that occurs naturally in fiber bundles, and the bundles can be separated into individual fibers. Asbestos fibers are resistant to heat, fire and chemicals, and they do not conduct electricity. With those characteristics, products containing asbestos were a perfect fit for many construction and manufacturing industries.
Asbestos products include brake shoes and clutch pads for automobiles, insulation for boilers and steam pipes on ships, and strengthening agents for cement and talc-based crayons. In the construction industry, asbestos fibers are used in ceiling tiles, paint that is lead based, plastics, adhesives, soundproofing material and insulation. As long as the fibers are encased and contained, with little chance of exposure under normal conditions, all of these uses are legal.
Unfortunately, asbestos exposure can carry significant health risks, some of which are untreatable and incurable at the present time. One of the most common diseases resulting from exposure to it is asbestosis, sometimes called asbestos lung, which is a chronic inflammation of the lungs that leads to shortness of breath, coughing, and even permanent lung damage.
Another source of asbestos litigation is for mesothelioma, which is a cancer that develops in the protective lining of the body’s major organs. The two most common forms are pleural mesothelioma, which affects the lining around the lungs, and pericardial mesothelioma, which affects the lining around the heart.
Despite centuries of asbestos mining and usage, asbestos exposure has only recently been recognized as a health hazard. Because symptoms of exposure can take 10 to 50 years to show up, it took medical professionals a great deal of time to connect the disease to it.
As asbestos litigation becomes more common, the use of this substance has, in most applications, declined. Asbestos fibers are still legal, despite the hazards of exposure, only if manufacturers follow all legally required safety standards.