Asbestos is a natural mineral that was mined alone or within other ores until the federal government banned it around 1980. Any product that contains 1 percent or more asbestos is deemed an asbestos-containing material (ABM), by the Environmental Protection Agency. Therefore, there are hundreds of products that contain asbestos, from ceiling tiles and caulking to clothing and chalk boards.
Because of its insulation qualities, asbestos was extensively used in products that required heat and temperature resistance. Therefore, countless home and construction products contained asbestos. Although asbestos was banned for the dangers it posed to human health, the number of ABMs varied so greatly and were so widespread that millions of people had already been exposed to asbestos. Decades later, they are beginning to feel the affects of this hazardous material.
- Shipyards: These workers are always in contact with insulation material called fiberglass, which has caused cancer in laboratory animals. However, shipbuilders are most likely to be contaminated with asbestos because many of the materials used for shipbuilding have varying amounts of asbestos components.
- Public buildings: Because asbestos is strong, flexible and does not burn, it was commonly used for insulation in public buildings built before 1980. ACM insulation was installed anywhere there was fire danger: pipe lagging, electrical conduits and furnace doors.
- Asbestos plants: Between 1940 and 1980, an estimated 27 million American workers had an occupational exposure to asbestos, working to process and manufacture it. Tragically, many plant worker employers knew about the dangers asbestos posed but did nothing about it.
- Steel plants and steel construction sites: These workers are frequently exposed to asbestos dust, as it was commonly used as a lagging in most areas of steel work. A majority of steel workers were not given the proper protective masks and clothing to protect them during work.
- Chemical plants: Workers at these plants are at a high exposure risk because asbestos is resistant to thermal and chemical degradation so it was highly useful in chemical laboratories.
How asbestos exposure arises
If you breathe asbestos fibers into your lungs, some of these fibers will be deposited in the air passages and on the cells that make up your lungs. Mucous can then carry these fibers from your lungs to your throat and stomach.
The most common ways that asbestos can enter your body is if you:
- Inhale low levels or high levels of airborne asbestos fibers while working in or near a building that contains asbestos products and is being torn down or renovated
- Inhale higher levels in air near an asbestos-related industry or near an asbestos-containing waste site
- Inhale secondhand asbestos fibers (from a family members clothing, equipment, etc.)
- Drink asbestos fibers that have been deposited in water from natural sources or from asbestos-containing cement pipes used in drinking water distribution systems
Read more about the types of workers who are commonly exposed to asbestos.
If you have questions about mesothelioma, asbestos lung cancer or other asbestos-related disease, please contact Brown | Gould | Kiely, LLP today. We serve residents throughout Maryland and Washington D.C., and will help you and your family collect the money to which you are entitled. We look forward to hearing from and working with you.