What Is Asbestos and Who Is at Risk?
Many of us are aware of the potential danger of being exposed to asbestos. We may even have seen commercials linking a disease called mesothelioma to asbestos exposure. In 1989, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) banned all new uses of asbestos, and steps have been taken to ensure its removal both from schools and in homes. At the same time, uses for asbestos developed prior to 1989 continue to be allowed. Today, there continue to be serious and potentially deadly illnesses caused by asbestos exposure, and many people may unknowingly be exposing themselves or their loved ones without even realizing it. What exactly is asbestos, and who is at risk for exposure?
Asbestos and Its Adverse Effects
Asbestos is a group of minerals that have been mined and used commercially since the 1800s. Formed as bundles of fibers that can be separated into thin threads, it is heat, fire, and chemically resistant and does not conduct electricity. Its uses include everything from drywall, flooring and roofing materials to hairdryers, ironing board covers, and plastic containers. Up until the year 2000, its fibers were used in children’s crayons, and it continues to be used in gardening fertilizer, compost, and in some products containing TALC, such as baby powder and cosmetics.
According to the National Cancer Institute, asbestos is a known human carcinogen and exposure to asbestos can occur at work, in the home, or at schools. When products containing asbestos threads are disturbed, they release minuscule particles into the air that can be inhaled and trapped in the lungs. Exposure to asbestos can cause shortness of breath, coughing, and permanent lung damages. Long-term exposure can result in lung cancer as well as mesothelioma, a cancer of the membranes of the chest and abdomen. Some studies suggest that asbestos is linked to increased risks of cancers of the throat, kidney, and gallbladder.
Who is at Risk for Asbestos Exposure?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), people can come into contact with naturally occurring asbestos through their daily activities. In many areas, asbestos is found naturally in rocks and soil, so things such as hiking or jogging over unpaved surfaces or even working in the garden, can result in slight exposure. There are certain occupations with increased risks of asbestos exposure, such as:
- Construction or home demolition crews
- Building inspectors
- Carpenters, electricians, bricklayers, and plumbers
- Automotive mechanics (asbestos is found in car brakes and clutches)
- Power plant workers
- Railroad and rail yard workers
- Shipyard workers and longshoremen
- Workers in oil refineries
If you are currently or have been involved in any type of occupation in which you were exposed to asbestos, be sure to inform your physician or medical provider.
Contact Our South Carolina Attorneys
If you think you’ve been exposed to asbestos, contact our experienced workers’ compensation and personal injury attorneys today for a free review of your case. At Anastopoulo Law Firm we can help you recover damages due to health problems caused by asbestos exposure, getting the benefits you and your family deserve. Serving Charleston and throughout South Carolina, we’ll fight for your rights and get you the compensation you deserve.