February 10, 2017
What if I Am Exposed to Asbestos?

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Due to its extreme durability and resistance to fires, chemical reactions, and breakdowns, the fiber made of asbestos was the “go-to” ingredient for many years. It was used in commercial and industrial materials such as roof shingles, floor tiles, textile products, automotive parts, cement, and ceiling materials.

In the 1970s, it became evident that asbestos was hazardous to human health, and its popular use quickly declined. At peak use, it was used in thousands of household items such as toasters and hair dryers. Although asbestos is now carefully regulated and is classified as a known carcinogen, approximately 30 million pounds of it are still used each year in the United States.

How is Asbestos Hazardous?

Asbestos fibers are extremely microscopic, smaller than a human hair, and are easily inhaled. If inhaled, these fibers cling to the lining and inner cavity tissues of the lungs. Asbestos fibers are rigid and become embedded in soft internal body tissues; however, the body is not able to expel or break down most of the fibers.

The three major conditions directly connected to asbestos exposure are mesothelioma, asbestosis, and lung cancer. Mesothelioma is an aggressive and rare cancer of the lung and the inner body cavity lining, which is the mesothelium. Prognosis for this disease is not favorable, but treatment is available.

Asbestosis is a non-malignant and long-term respiratory condition. This condition is caused by scar tissue plaques forming on the visceral surface of the pleura, a pair of membranes lining the thorax and the lungs. Asbestosis can be a precursor for the onset of mesothelioma.

Lung cancer is usually associated with tobacco use, but asbestos exposure is known to exacerbate cancer.

Could you have been exposed to asbestos at your job?

There is a long list of occupations that were affected by asbestos exposure. If you worked in an industrial setting such as a commercial product manufacturing warehouse, shipyard, power plant, construction, or as a firefighter before 1980, it is likely that you crossed paths with asbestos products. For a complete list of at-risk occupations visit https://www.asbestos.com/occupations/.

Be proactive about your health.

Most illnesses caused by asbestos do not reveal themselves right away. It could take 20 to 50 years until symptoms are seen. Even if you are not having symptoms now, you should still be proactive about your health. Here are some tips:

  • Schedule regular checkups with your doctor.
  • Be sure to tell your doctor about your possible asbestos exposure and ask if further tests should routinely be performed such as pulmonary function monitoring.
  • Monitor any symptoms you are experiencing and note whether they could be symptoms of mesothelioma or other respiratory diseases. Chronic coughs, chest pain, and shortness of breath are symptoms that should be addressed by an asbestos disease specialist or thoracic oncologist. These specialists will be able to determine whether your symptoms truly indicate an asbestos-related disease.

Could your employer be liable?

If your job exposed you to asbestos, then your employer could be liable. Depending on your work arrangement, you could possibly have both a workers compensation claim and a third-party claim. Commonly, asbestos exposure takes place in industrial settings, and these companies often contract out work to other businesses.

For example, if Bob, a mechanic, was exposed to asbestos and worked at John Doe Auto Plant for 30 years, Bob was technically employed by Sam Smith Machinery, who holds a contract with John Doe Auto Plant to provide mechanic services. Sam Smith Machinery is Bob’s employer that controlled where he worked, and therefore, would be responsible for workers’ compensation benefits. Bob could still sue John Doe Auto Plant in court for his injuries, which would be considered a third party claim.

Contact a local asbestos injury attorney.

Personal Injury attorneys are the greatest resource to determine who the responsible parties are for asbestos exposure. Contact Fields, Dehmlow & Vessels, LLC to consult with an experienced asbestos attorney. You can reach us at 740-374-5346 or you can fill out our contact form and we will be in touch very soon.