As a once-hailed “miracle mineral” that was used heavily in industry, there was a lot to like about what asbestos brought to the table prior to the mid-1980s. First discovered in ancient times, the substance has many of the properties manufacturers look for, including being inexpensive to use, as well as extremely durable and heat resistant. For these reasons and more, the Industrial Revolution brought numerous applications for asbestos and the asbestos industry boomed.
Of course, hindsight is 20/20, and looking back, this was a major mistake. While asbestos performs well, it also poses a serious health risk to humans. Thus, while it has not been completely outlawed in the U.S. to date – it is still used in certain industries under strict regulation – the use of asbestos has drastically decreased over the years thanks to efforts by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to make the public more aware.
After a significant fall from grace, the mineral has now been demonized as a silent killer and countless claims have been filed to compensate for asbestos-related injuries.
If you may have been exposed to asbestos, speak with your healthcare provider about tests and screening to help detect the presence of asbestos fibers and asbestos-related diseases.
How Asbestos is Harmful to Humans
While many people have heard that asbestos is harmful, they may not know exactly how. The danger lies in inhalation of asbestos fibers. Continuously breathing in the microscopic fibers of friable (airborne) asbestos can cause these to become permanently lodged in the lungs. Over time, their presence causes irritation, and eventually scarring. Scar tissue is firm and inflexible, and restricts movement of the respiratory system, making breathing difficult and painful. This can eventually lead to serious health issues, including asthma, emphysema, asbestosis, mesothelioma, lung cancer, and more.
Because asbestos fibers are usually invisible to the naked eye, it’s difficult to notice when one is breathing them in. Moreover, the latency period associated with asbestos-related disease symptoms is so significant that complications aren’t often observable until decades later. By the time one’s health is obviously compromised, an illness has likely progressed, and is oftentimes fatal.
Given that asbestos was used regularly into the 1980s, people exposed in the years leading up to the EPA’s widespread ban are just now experiencing symptoms for the first time. These individuals were exposed all those years ago, yet the consequences of exposure are just now becoming evident.
In addition to the latency of symptoms leading to an uptick in recent years of asbestos-related illnesses, many homes, places of work, and other buildings still contain asbestos, meaning people are still being actively exposed. Moreover, various products also still contain the fibers, especially if they are imported from countries that have chosen not to regulate it.
Long story short, while the use of asbestos has decreased significantly, it still is an active health hazard. Some illnesses can be easily traced back to exposure, while making this connection is more convoluted in others due to additional known risk factors. Let’s take a closer look at asbestosis in particular, which (perhaps evident by its name) is directly linked to exposure.
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What Exactly is Asbestosis?
Again, there are certain conditions that could result from exposure to asbestos while others have been directly linked. A doctor can diagnose an asbestos-related health issue with the use of imaging and other forms of testing.
Asbestosis is a frequently diagnosed asbestos-related health condition, which impacts the lungs. Although it had been present for a long time, it was commonly misdiagnosed as tuberculosis or other pulmonary diseases up until the 1920s when Thomas Oliver eventually coined the term “asbestosis” in a medical paper. From that point forward, literature on the subject expanded greatly and previous cases were revisited by physicians who made the determination that asbestosis had indeed been present. The first case in which asbestosis was initially diagnosed (rather than another condition) was in an American insulation worker came in 1933.
Common symptoms of the disease include:
- Shortness of breath
- Persistent dry cough
- Chest pain or tightness
- Weight loss
Unfortunately, asbestosis is irreversible unless a patient is able to get a full lung transplant. It isn’t usually fatal by itself, but symptoms tend to progress as a patient ages. All treatments for the disease are considered to be “palliative,” meaning they are meant to comfort the patient and extend lifespan. Routine follow-up care is necessary after an initial diagnosis, and eventually, a physician may prescribe oxygen therapy to improve lung function.
Respiratory infections are of particular concern for those with asbestosis, since the respiratory system is already compromised. So, getting care right away when a respiratory infection is suspected is important. Some additional therapies may also be provided in terms of basic exercises that can help make breathing a bit easier.
Asbestosis can lead to other, more fatal conditions, including lung cancer. This is why it’s vital that patients remain diligent in following a doctor’s treatment plan and continue to receive routine screenings. Because medical care can be expensive, however, patients may want to explore the possibility of filing an asbestosis claim to pursue compensation for their injuries.
Asbestos Exposure Risks
Today, there are not very many opportunities for most people to be exposed to asbestos and develop asbestosis. While it is still used in certain applications, those applications are highly regulated and strict safety procedures are used to keep individuals safe. There is some residual asbestos lurking in older buildings, of course, but many of these have gradually been renovated and/or demolished over the years. And asbestos is still used in cement, automotive parts, and in other industries where it is considered to be non friable, and thus, low risk.
Many older and vintage products can still contain asbestos.
With that said, other areas of the world may not have such strict guidelines concerning the use of the mineral, and trace amounts continue to be found in products imported into the U.S. such as in makeup, crayons, clay, and fertilizer. Johnson & Johnson (J&J) has also faced extensive litigation related to its talcum powder (baby powder), a clay mineral that contains asbestos. Also, older products lying around the home such as aging fire blankets and other tapestries, fireplace accessories including artificial logs, and certain appliances may contain asbestos.
The larger issue at this point is that people who were exposed years ago may now be experiencing serious symptoms for the first time. As stated above, illnesses that stem from exposure commonly take years to manifest, meaning those who lived or worked around asbestos decades ago could now be running into health problems as a result. Thus, asbestosis is very much still being actively diagnosed and treated.
It can be helpful to know what kind of exposure possibilities existed prior to the asbestos ban, so individuals who have been diagnosed with asbestosis can consider their options for pursuing claims. Any of the following individuals are at risk of being diagnosed with asbestosis:
- Former asbestos industry workers. This category is one that will continue to have the largest number of victims. Individuals who worked in factories that produced such products as roofing shingles, brake parts, floor tiles, textiles, and other manufactured goods known to contain the mineral likely were exposed. Also, those in the construction field probably handled the mineral at one point or another.
- Their family members. One of the sneakiest ways that asbestos can cause harm is by second-hand exposure, traveling home with people working with it and exposing their loved ones. The tiny fibers can be carried long distances on clothing and accessories, in hair, and on work bags and lunch pails.
- Those living near a mine. Towns near former asbestos mines have greater incidences of asbestos-related illnesses, even among people who weren’t employed in the industry directly. This is because fibers continue to lurk in the soil, infiltrate water supplies, and travel through the air, making it easy to ingest.
Anyone who suspects they’ve been diagnosed with asbestosis due to one of the above conditions may consider looking into options regarding claims for asbestos injuries.
Victims May Be Able to Secure Compensation
It’s important to understand the victims of asbestos exposure who have dealt with serious health consequences as a result may be able to file an asbestosis claim and seek compensation for their injuries. Each case is unique, and the results of legal action will vary from one to another, but exploring this possibility is worthwhile.
Working with a law firm that is well-versed in claims for asbestosis is an important step. In some cases, it’s possible to receive access to a portion of preset bankruptcy funds, while in other cases, filing an individual personal injury lawsuit might be the right approach. The experienced team at AsbestosClaims.law can help clients navigate the sometimes-complicated legal system to determine the best course of action.
In addition to covering medical bills and rehabilitation expenses, asbestosis payouts may include a monetary determination for pain and suffering, lost wages, and even lost enjoyment in life.
Being diagnosed with asbestosis is not easy – for the patient or their loved ones. Anyone who believes they may have been a victim of exposure should at least look into the possibility of an asbestosis claim. This will not only help ease some of the financial burden of treatment but ensure those responsible are held accountable for their actions.
For Justinian C. Lane, getting compensation for asbestos victims is personal.
Justinian’s grandparents and his father all worked with asbestos in their younger years and died from asbestos-related cancers in their later years.
At the time of each of their deaths, no one in Justinian’s family knew that they were eligible to file an asbestos lawsuit and to seek compensation from the asbestos trusts.
Because no one in Justinian’s family knew their options, they never received any compensation for the death of their loved ones.
If you believe that you or your family member’s injury was related to asbestos exposure, you could be entitled to significant compensation.
This is money you could use to cover the costs of asbestos removal services, pay for medical treatment, and preemptively protect your physical well-being.
There are also asbestos trusts that offer compensation much more quickly and easily (without filing a lawsuit.)
If you’d like help with filing a claim, please get in touch by email at [email protected], us or call or text us at (206) 455-9190. We’ll listen to your story and explain your options. And we never charge for anything unless you receive money in your pocket.
In addition to legal claims, veterans disability, social security and employment protection like workers compensation, FELA and The Jones Act for maritime workers, there are asbestos trusts that have been set up to compensate those harmed by asbestos without having to file a lawsuit.
There is no risk or cost to speak with one of our staff about your asbestos litigation. There are no fees unless you receive money.
If you have any additional questions or concerns related to asbestos, check out our website and YouTube page for videos, infographics and answers to your questions about asbestos, including health and safety, asbestos testing, removing asbestos from your home and building, and legal information about compensation for asbestos injuries.
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W.A.R.D., which stands for the Worldwide Asbestos Research Database, helps clients to narrow down when and where they may have been exposed, as well as which products may still contain asbestos. W.A.R.D. will also help indicate compensation types and how much a person may be entitled to.
Patti Kratzke, Robert A. Kratzke (2018). Asbestos-Related Disease. Journal of Radiology Nursing (37)1, pp. 21-26. doi: 10.1016/j.jradnu.2017.12.003.
Bartrip PW. History of asbestos related disease. Postgrad Med J. 2004 Feb;80(940):72-6. doi: 10.1136/pmj.2003.012526. PMID: 14970292; PMCID: PMC1742940.