Asbestos Awareness Week 2023
The first week of April is Asbestos Awareness Week. Asbestos is a dangerous mineral that is used for its natural heat and fire-resistant properties. It has been used for thousands of years as insulation. There are six types of asbestos that can be classified as either amphibole or serpentine. Amphibole asbestos fibers are needle-like, while serpentine fibers are curly. The only type of serpentine asbestos is chrysotile while the types of amphibole asbestos include amosite, crocidolite, tremolite, anthophyllite, and actinolite. When asbestos is disturbed, microscopic fibers are released into the air where they can become inhaled or ingested and then cause cancers including mesothelioma, lung cancer, and colorectal cancer.
The dangers of asbestos have been known for a long time. The Roman philosopher Pliny the Elder noticed that slaves who wove asbestos into fabric wore goat bladders as respirators to protect themselves. Ancient uses of asbestos included balls of asbestos covered in flaming tar being used as weapons, cremation cloths made from asbestos being used to prevent ashes from falling into the funeral pyre, and tablecloths and napkins being made from asbestos so they could be cleaned by throwing them into the fire. The cloth would seem cleaner and whiter after being burned.
Asbestos use grew in the 20th century during the industrial revolution. Asbestos was used as insulation on pipes and boilers on trains, in ovens in oil refineries, and was used for brakes and clutches in automobiles. It was used in construction as insulation and was added to products to make them stronger. These products include cement, roof shingles, floor and ceiling tiles, siding, stucco, and plaster. To protect ships from fire during World War II, the United States had a mandate for asbestos to be on all ships. Asbestos could also be found in adhesives, duct connectors, electrical components, and textiles in different industries like steel mills, chemical production, and power generation.
At its peak, asbestos was also used in consumer products to protect users from heat and as fireproofing. Multiple products in the home contained asbestos including appliances, pot holders, hair dryers, insulation, fake snow, ashtrays, and even cigarette filters to filter out harmful chemicals from cigarette smoke. If the products were used and the asbestos became friable, people could have been releasing asbestos into the air, leading to inhalation and ingestion of the fibers. Consumers using these products and workers in industries that used asbestos didn’t know their exposure to asbestos was dangerous. Years after their exposure, people develop cancers including mesothelioma, lung cancer, laryngeal cancer, colorectal cancer etc.
The properties that make asbestos so useful as insulation are the same properties that make it super dangerous for people. Asbestos fibers are very strong and cannot be broken down or removed by the body, so they stay lodged in human tissue for many years. Over time, the asbestos fibers cause DNA changes in cells, which then leads to cells turning into cancer cells. Asbestos is banned in many countries, but not in the United States. The chlor-alkali industry still uses it in membranes for the chlorine making process. It is heavily regulated, but it is not outright banned, making exposure to the carcinogen likely for many Americans.
If you have mesothelioma, lung cancer, colorectal cancer or another cancer and think it could be from asbestos exposure, contact us today to see if you could be entitled to compensation. Call 412-471-3980 or fill out our contact form and a member of our team will get back to you to review your case.