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Exposure to Asbestos

Asbestos Exposure, The Unique Aspects and The Dangers

Asbestos was considered by many to be a miracle fiber until its serious health hazards came to light in the popular press in the early 1970s. However, asbestos companies knew as early as the 1930s that asbestos exposure was hazardous. Widespread in the environment, easy to obtain by mining, and widely used in manufacturing, asbestos is a tough, indestructible product that enriched many companies before being banned by the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) in 1972.

Asbestos The Silent Killer

Asbestos is a silent killer; it is invisible, microscopic, tasteless, odorless. It can enter the environment from mining operations, the weathering of natural deposits in the earth, the deterioration of manufactured products, or from particles suspended in the air and water. Asbestos fibers do not evaporate into air or dissolve in water. They hang around forever.

Known today for causing mesothelioma and lung cancer – asbestos is dangerous when asbestos deposits or products are disturbed. Small diameter fibers and particles are so tiny and lightweight they can only be seen with a microscope. They may remain suspended in the air for a long time and be carried long distances by wind or water before they settle. Larger diameter particles tend to settle more quickly.

Asbestos fibers are generally not broken down to other compounds and will remain virtually unchanged over long periods. If asbestos fibers are breathed in they may get trapped in the lungs. Levels of fibers in lung tissue build up over time if exposures continues. The fibers can move through the lymphatic system from the lungs to the pleura, membrane lining the lungs and chest cavity, where they may cause pleural mesothelioma.

How One Is Exposed To Asbestos

Most asbestos exposure comes from breathing fibers generated from the wearing down or disturbance of manufactured products such as:

  • insulation
  • automotive brakes and clutches
  • ceiling and floor tiles
  • dry wall
  • roof shingles and cement

Levels can be dangerously high adjacent to an asbestos factory or a mine. They can be above average near a building being torn down or renovated that contains asbestos products, or near a waste site where asbestos is not properly covered or stored to protect it from erosion.

Indoors, the concentration of asbestos depends on whether the materials are in good condition or deteriorating and easily crumbled. It is also dependent on what the asbestos is used for.

Occupational Hazards and Asbestos Exposure

People who work with asbestos or products containing asbestos, such as miners, insulation workers, asbestos abatement workers and brake mechanics, require proper protection as they are likely to be exposed to much higher levels of air-borne asbestos fiber. In addition, custodial and maintenance workers making repairs or installations with asbestos-containing materials may be exposed to higher levels of asbestos than is healthy. Vermiculite and talc may also contain asbestos therefore occupational workers, do-it-yourselfers and the general public may be exposed to asbestos when using these products. OSHA (U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety & Health Administration) has published extensive documents that describe the health hazards of asbestos and how to recognize it.

When Asbestos Fibers Enter The Body

Asbestos enters the body when asbestos fibers are inhaled or swallowed.

If you breathe asbestos fibers into your lungs, some fibers will be deposited in the air passages and the cells of your lungs. Most fibers are carried away or coughed up in a layer of mucus to the throat, where they are swallowed into the stomach. This usually takes place within a few hours. Fibers deposited in the deepest parts of the lung are removed more slowly. Amphibole asbestos fibers stay in the lung longer than chrysotile fibers. Some fibers can remain in place for many years and never leave your body.

If asbestos fibers are swallowed, nearly all of them pass along your intestines within a few days and are excreted in the feces. Some may penetrate into cells that line the stomach or intestines and a few get into the blood. Some of these become trapped in other tissues and some are removed in urine.

Jobs with Risk of Asbestos Exposure

Asbestos was so widely used in manufacturing and construction that almost every conceivable thing a person does can cause them to be exposed to asbestos fibers. The most common forms of asbestos exposure occur on the job.

At risk jobs include:

  • brick masons
  • carpenters
  • concrete finishers
  • construction workers
  • dentists
  • electricians
  • insulators
  • machinists
  • mechanics
  • sheet metal workers
  • pipe fitters
  • plumbers
  • roofers
  • shipyard workers
  • steamfitters
  • boilermakers
  • painters
  • drywall installers
  • foundry workers
  • refinery workers
  • welders

Just to name a few.

Our mesothelioma law firm has also successfully represented many clients who did not know how they were exposed to asbestos fibers. Our experienced investigators will research your case, often going back thirty years or more to determine when, where and how your exposure to asbestos occurred. We pursue hard-to-find witnesses and documents to assist you in winning your asbestos lawsuit.

Contact the asbestos lawyers at Clapper, Patti, Schweizer & Mason today at 415-332-4262.