Asbestos is the name given to a type of mineral fiber that is found in rock and soil. Due to the strength and heat resistance of the fiber, it has long been used in buildings for insulation and as a fire-proofing construction material. In addition, asbestos is also widely used in many manufactured and pre-fabricated products. These include building materials like ceilings and floor tiles, automobile clutch and brake, heat-resistant fabrics, gaskets, packaging, and coatings.
How asbestos exposure can occur?
You may be exposed to asbestos if asbestos-containing materials are disturbed or damaged in any way, causing fibers to release into the air. Situations in which exposure is likely to occur include product use, demolition work, construction or building and home maintenance and repair. According to the World health Organization (WHO), around 125 million people in the world today are exposed to Asbestos at their workplace.
What Asbestos exposure may cause?
There are a number of harmful health-related effects that have been associated with the exposure to Asbestos.
Asbestos Lung Cancer
According to the United States governmentís Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), those who are exposed to the asbestos fibers face a higher risk of developing a lung disease. This has been demonstrated through several occupational studies. When the fibers are inhaled, they get trapped by the lungs and cause problems. The risk is particularly of a greater degree for smokers.
The EPA has also identified gastrointestinal cancers as possibly resulting from asbestos exposure. The substance has thus been classified under Group A that contains know human carcinogens.
It is a rare type of cancer that usually occurs in the thin lining of the heart, lung, chest and the abdomen. According to the EPA, findings borne out from numerous occupational studies have revealed that asbestos exposure can lead to mesothelioma.
It is a severe non-cancer disease of the lungs. Asbestosis is a long term condition that may adversely impact the respiratory function of those that have been exposed. It is usually identified by shortness of breath and persistent coughing.
Has the use of Asbestos been banned?
Production, import, distribution, processing and the use of most types of asbestos containing products such as roof coatings, clothing, cement flat sheet, millboard and brake blocks is legally permitted. There are however a few uses that have been banned by regulation such as the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), Clean Air Act (CAA) and Consumer Product Safety Act. Examples of banned uses include corrugated and commercial paper, asbestos blocks and the use of the fibers in wall-patching compounds and artificial fireplace embers.
Asbestos Cancer Statistics
WHO estimates suggest that in 2004, asbestos-related diseases such as lung cancer, mesothelioma and asbestosis from occupational exposures led to 107,000 deaths and 1,523,000 Disability Adjusted Life Years (DALYs)
Typically, the greater the level of exposure, the greater will be the probability of developing a harmful health condition. Other factors that determine whether somebody develops a disease include the duration of exposure, the shape and size of the asbestos fibers, source of exposure and chemical composition of the fiber. Symptoms may develop years after the exposure to Asbestos. Since asbestos-related conditions are not easy to identify, physicians usually investigate into the likelihood of the fiber exposure if someone comes to them with a related problem such as lung cancer. In addition to examining the medical history, they also look at the patientís work, cultural and
Are you entitled to compensation?
If you, a loved one or somebody you know has developed a harmful health-related condition due to exposure to asbestos, you should promptly consult an Asbestos attorney. The lawyer will be in a better position to inform you of your legal rights and assist you in filing a lawsuit against the manufacturer of the asbestos-containing products.
Filing an asbestos lawsuit
The move towards suing an asbestos product manufacturer can result in much-needed closure and compensation. In most states, there is a time limit set by the courts for filing a personal injury lawsuit, the kind that would be filed in asbestos-related cases. This is termed as the statute of limitations. This condition mandates that you can only file a lawsuit within a certain time frame, such as two, or three or four years. Now, since the conditions caused by asbestos exposure may take several years to fully take hold and show any symptoms, the statute of limitations works in a different way. The time period starts from the day of the discovery of asbestos exposure or an illness, such as pleural plaques or the signs of lung cancer showing up in an x-ray or a biopsy.
Many people that have filed lawsuits alleging asbestos exposure at home or the workplace have successful claimed compensation and punitive damages. A case in point is that of the lawsuit filed by the estate of one Edward Merwitz, a resident of Langhorne, Pennsylvania. Edward had been a worker at the Philadelphia Navy Yard during the 1960s and was exposed to asbestos fibers through items such as gaskets, insulation, electric, wires, pumps and motors. As a result, he developed mesothelioma and passed away in mid-2010, six months after its discovery. A Philadelphia county jury gave a verdict in favor of Merwitz, charging one of the manufacturers of these products, Rockbestos, liable to pay a sum of $7.25 million.