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Asbestos Exposure

People asbestos are at risk for numerous severe conditions, and even some fatal diseases such as malignant mesothelioma. Though today we are aware that asbestos is a hazardous material, this was not always the case, and millions of Americans and people around the world have suffered as a result.

What Is Asbestos?

Asbestos is a mineral that has been used and highly prized since its discovery more than 4,000 years ago. It was initially valued for its strength and its resistance to heat and fire and used in cooking implements or to extinguish a flame, but with the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, its popularity grew as people realized that it had, even more, uses, including construction, insulation, and sound absorption.

It began to be used by manufacturers and industrial settings in high-heat environments, in development of municipal, commercial and residential buildings, and in countless applications used by the military. All of these uses have led exposing people to asbestos fibers, which when breathed in or ingested can cause permanent damage.

How Are People Exposed to Asbestos?

Asbestos is a fibrous material, and when it is undisturbed, it does not pose a danger. But asbestos breaks down very quickly, and once broken down its fine particles that float in the air. Some kinds of asbestos particles are shaped like needles while others shaped like barbs or fish hooks. All of them are microscopic and lightweight, and can easily be inhaled or ingested. Once they enter the body, they can become stuck in our cells, where they begin to do their damage.

There are many different ways asbestos exposure occurs. The most common is in their work environment, but others have been exposed by coming into contact with friends and loved ones who carry asbestos home from work on their clothing, skin or hair. Still, others lived near asbestos mines or processing mills, or alongside transportation routes where asbestos was carried in open dump trucks or on cargo trains.

Military service in America’s armed forces is one of the most common ways that Americans have been exposed to the deadly material, as those responsible for purchasing materials believed that it was a protective agent, and were unaware of the dangers that it posed.

Our bodies react to asbestos particles in a variety of ways. If coughing does not dislodge the particle, the cell that it becomes embedded in will eventually die. A process of genetic change can begin in other, nearby cells, eventually leading to the scarring of asbestosis or the cancerous tumors that characterize malignant mesothelioma. Asbestos causes numerous illnesses, including multiple cancers and non-cancerous conditions:

  • Malignant mesothelioma — A rare and deadly form of cancer that forms in the lining of the lungs and abdomen
  • Asbestos-related lung cancer
  • Ovarian cancer
  • Laryngeal cancer
  • Asbestosis — Scarring in the lungs caused by the inflammatory response to the presence of asbestos
  • Pleural plaques — Thickening of the lining of the lungs
  • Pleural effusion — Excess fluid in the lungs that makes breathing difficult
  • Diffuse pleural thickening — A painful condition that constricts breathing as a result of scarring in the pleural lining of the lungs
  • Pleuritis — A painful inflammatory condition of the pleural lining
  • Atelectasis — A condition caused by inflammation and scarring, leading to the lungs being unable to inflate fully

Asbestos Companies and their Role in Asbestos Exposure

In the 1970s, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency concluded a study of the impact of asbestos and revealed to the public that it was a carcinogenic material that posed significant harm to human health. Though that was the first time the information became widely known, it was not when the dangers of asbestos were discovered.

The companies that relied most heavily on asbestos for their profitability were aware of its health hazards decades earlier and made a pact to keep the information out of the public eye. Their decision to choose profits over people’s health has led to millions of people being sickened as a result of their exposure to the toxic material.

What Can Victims of Asbestos Exposure Do?

Since the mid-1970s, people who have been sickened as a result of asbestos exposure have been able to pursue justice in America’s courts by filing mesothelioma lawsuits and lawsuits accusing companies of responsibility for other asbestos-related diseases.

These personal injury lawsuits (and wrongful death cases filed by survivors of those who have died of asbestos-related diseases) have allowed those who have been harmed by the careless disregard of the asbestos companies to seek compensation for their medical expenses, lost wages, and other damages they’ve suffered.