Most people know that old buildings contain asbestos. Most people do not know that builders placed much of this asbestos in the walls, as opposed to buried somewhere deep inside the structure. Later, as asbestos-laced walls deteriorate, the fibers often enter the surrounding air. Furthermore, most people do not know that it is still legal to use this building material. Asbestos use is particularly common in countries that do not have stringent health and safety laws.
Concrete manufacturers must use a huge amount of asbestos to effectively reinforce their products. 20,000 of these tiny fibers can fit between Abraham Lincoln's lips and chin on a penny. Since just one of these fibers could cause one of the serious illnesses listed below, there are a few things everyone should know about asbestos and concrete.
Asbestos-Laced Cement is Everywhere (Almost)
Cement is a very effective binding material, much like the mortar between the bricks in a wall. However, concrete is also a porous material that rather quickly breaks down. That's especially true for certain kinds of concrete in certain areas.
So, concrete is widely used. In fact, other than water, it is the most widely-used material in the world. China, a country with almost no workplace health and safety laws, produces almost half this concrete.
To many builders, especially those who care little about worker safety, asbestos is a reliable solution to this problem. As a result, about 70 percent of the world's asbestos is in concrete. It is still legal to use asbestos in almost every country, including the United States and China.
Asbestos-Laced Why Cement Contains Asbestos
Quite simply, asbestos is cheap. This mineral is plentiful and relatively easy to extract. Asbestos mining, much like asbestos use, is generally legal in most countries. Additionally, asbestos is a fibrous mineral that requires little processing. As mentioned, these fibers are so small that, in its natural form, asbestos is relatively easy to work with.
Worldwide, the residential and commercial construction sector is very active and very competitive. A few dollars here or there is often the difference between losing money on a project and making a healthy profit. Asbestos is much cheaper than manufactured cellulose fiber and natural sepiolite, attapulgite, or wollastonite fiber.
The Hazards of Corrugated Cement Sheets
Originally, these prefabricated concrete sheets were used exclusively for industrial purposes. Later, as manufacturing techniques became more sophisticated and customization became possible, corrugated cement sheets were used as office partition walls, residential kitchen walls, tabletops, and acoustical panels.
Regardless of their use, these items contain significant amounts of asbestos. Concrete does not fit into moldings very well. It is too porous. So, manufacturers reinforce it with asbestos. This technique dates back to the Stone Age, when people used asbestos to reinforce ceramic pots.
Mesothelioma is the most dangerous illness associated with asbestos exposure. Mesothelioma is a cancerous tumor which forms in the meso lining between the heart and lungs. Furthermore, the cancer spreads quickly. Because of the tumor's delicate location and aggressive nature, these tumors usually do not respond well to traditional anti-cancer treatments. As a result, mesothelioma has a high fatality rate.
Asbestosis, a breathing disorder, is another common condition. Like mesothelioma, the latency period for asbestosis could be fifty years or longer. So, many victims have no idea they are sick until it is too late to effectively treat their conditions. Asbestosis treatments may be available, but they are highly invasive and highly risky.
Know Your Rights
In many parts of the world, workers have few legal options if they are hurt on the job. Frequently, the standard of care is vague, the laws are not victim-friendly, and the cases are hard to prove in court.
Some countries, including the United STates, are different. The standard of care, such as providing protective clothing and warning workers about exposure risks, is clear. Many laws are designed to protect job injury victims, and many of these victims need not prove fault or negligence to obtain compensation.
Here's the catch. A victim must take the first step, by reaching out to an attorney who can evaluate the case.