Though most people understand asbestos to be dangerous, few realize it’s actually a naturally occurring mineral that scientists found in mafic rocks. Not long ago, many industries used asbestos in construction materials because it could resist heat and chemicals. It was strong, durable, and affordable, and it had a low electrical current.
The Dangers of Asbestos
When people breathe in asbestos fibers, the fibers get trapped in their lungs. As time passes, these fibers gather, leading to inflammation of the lungs and scarring – both of which lead to difficulty breathing, among other health issues. The U.S. Department of Health and Services classifies asbestos as a carcinogen (a cancer-causing agent) because exposure can cause lung cancer. Other studies reveal that exposure to asbestos can also cause mesothelioma, which is a cancer that attacks the thin membranes lining the chest and abdomen. Mesothelioma is extremely rare, and its diagnosis almost always links back to a person’s exposure to asbestos.
Other studies have been suggesting a connection between exposure to asbestos and many other cancers, including:
Though there’s no evidence that asbestos causes these cancers, scientists do acknowledge this connection. Scientists are more clear about the connection between asbestos and many other conditions, including asbestosis – a condition that inflames the lungs and causes permanent lung damage, coughing, and shortness of breath. It also causes nonmalignant lung problems that affect the membranes of the lungs and the delicate tissue that lines the lungs.
Who Is at Risk for Asbestos Exposure
Low asbestos levels are natural and part of the air, water, and soil. Everyone has had some exposure to asbestos at some time. Such minor exposure will likely have no effect on most people. However, those who do become ill from exposure to asbestos are usually people who encounter it on a regular basis – either through their work or in some sort of environmental contact.
Laws to Protect Against Asbestos Exposure
During the 1970s, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) realized the dangers of breathing in asbestos and warned the public of its status as a carcinogen. Even before this announcement, scientists were already linking exposure to asbestos with possibly fatal health issues, including lung cancer. Because of this discovery, state and federal law makers enacted regulations to handle buildings that still had asbestos as part of their construction. Further, they created regulations regarding people who work around asbestos and those in charge of buildings with asbestos as well as ways for cleaning up remaining asbestos.
Once the EPA determined that asbestos was a hazard, it created the National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP) to protect people from asbestos and other air pollutants like mercury, arsenic, and radon. The laws that NESHAP enacted apply to all structures built that contain asbestos, including hospitals, churches, and schools. Before the 1970s, construction companies used asbestos to build these structures.
Because many buildings still exist that contain asbestos, NESHAP created a management plan for handling these structures. This is because asbestos is primarily a hazard when someone disturbs it. When demolitions happen and construction companies don’t follow NESHAP management plans, they could unnecessarily expose workers and local populations to asbestos poisoning.
When to Seek Help
If you believe you’ve been exposed to asbestos, contact your doctor and explain your symptoms. If you know you’ve been around buildings where asbestos was used in construction, let your physician know so he or she can look for symptoms of asbestos-related health problems. Talk to a PA lawyer to discover if a company, manager, or other agency negligently exposed you to dangerous asbestos.
The personal injury lawyers of Anapol Weiss are ready to hear your case. Our experienced and diligent attorneys will examine all the evidence and is prepared to go to trial if necessary. We will do what it takes to ensure you are compensated fairly. Call our office today to set up your free consultation.