What is Asbestos?

Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral commonly used in a variety of products, primarily used for its fire-resistant and insulating qualities throughout the 20th century.

It has since been used more sparingly after workers acquired mesothelioma and other illnesses after asbestos exposure.

Asbestos fibers are too small to be seen by the naked eye, so workers often are unknowingly exposed to the cancer-causing agent. Any slight disturbance to the asbestos can result in billions of fibers being released into the air.

With more and more people now starting to show symptoms of mesothelioma from an exposure to asbestos decades ago, asbestos and mesothelioma lawsuits have become the largest and most expensive mass tort in American history.

Asbestos products became a common structural component in buildings and even saw great use in residential housing. For example, asbestos was used in ceiling panels in homes across America, and even after it was banned for this use in 1979, builders were allowed to use up their remaining asbestos stock for years.

When working in an asbestos environment, wearing protection often does not provide enough safety. When the asbestos fibers are disturbed, they enter the air and may be inhaled by workers or other individuals at a later point. Only certain products containing asbestos have been banned in the United States due to their link with mesothelioma and other illnesses.

Hazards of Asbestos Exposure

Inhalation of asbestos fibers and silica dust has been found to cause serious respiratory diseases and health problems. Asbestos fibers and silica dust may remain in the lungs and accumulate after prolonged exposure. In severe cases, asbestos exposure can lead to mesothelioma, lung cancer and asbestosis.

Silica can cause irreversible lung scarring, known as silicosis, as well as lung cancer. The risk of asbestos and silica-related diseases increases with the length of exposure. Doctors and scientists have not yet been able to establish a threshold level for safe exposure to either substance. Workers and other individuals may develop mesothelioma symptoms no matter how long they were exposed to asbestos.

Those who develop mesothelioma, asbestosis or silicosis have usually been exposed to airborne asbestos or silica for a number of years. Symptoms of these diseases may not manifest until 15- 40 years after the first exposure.

Additional cancers caused by products with asbestos include squamous cell, small cell, oat cell, adenocarcinoma, bronchoalveolar, non-differentiated carcinoma and others.

Products With Asbestos

If an asbestos-containing material can be crumpled under hand pressure (“friable asbestos”), it is more likely to release fibers into the air.

Fluffy, spray-applied asbestos fire proofing material, for example, is generally considered “friable.”  Materials which are “non-friable” such as vinyl asbestos floor tile, can release fibers when sanded, sawed or otherwise disturbed.

Asbestos-containing materials, such as cement pipes, can release asbestos fibers into the air if broken, cut or crushed when a building is constructed, renovated, repaired or demolished. This can put workers and other individuals at risk for a number of asbestos diseases, including mesothelioma, asbestosis or lung cancer.

As many as 3,000 different types of commercial products may have contained asbestos, including:

• Pipe insulation
• Cement
• Acoustical plaster
• Decorative plaster
• Electrical cloth
• Lay-in panels
• Roofing shingles
• Roofing felt
• Base flashing
• Thermal paper products
• Packing materials (rope)
• Fire doors
• Wall board blankets
• Boiler insulation
• Gaskets
• Spray-applied insulation
• Blown insulation
• HVAC duct insulation
• Breaching insulation
• Flexible fabric connections
• Boiler insulation pipes
• Heating and electrical ducts
• Electrical wiring insulation
• Fireproofing materials
• Fire curtains
• Block insulation
• Pipes (transite)
• Joint compounds
• Asphalt floor tile
• Vinyl floor tile
• Duct tile
• Vinyl sheet flooring
• Vinyl wall coverings
• Cooling towers
• Flooring backing
• Floor tile
• Construction adhesives
• Carpet texture products

Mesothelioma lawyers have filed thousands of lawsuits on behalf of workers who developed serious illnesses after suffering asbestos exposure. These lawsuits have alleged that workers were not properly warned about the dangers of asbestos products.

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