Asbestos has long been known for its hazardous effects on health, but many people are still unaware of the potential dangers lurking in their workplaces. In this article, you will understand the basics of asbestos exposure, how your workplace may expose you to this dangerous substance, and what to do if you are affected by asbestos-related illnesses.
Table of Contents
What Is Asbestos?
Asbestos is a group of naturally occurring mineral fibers with several desirable properties, such as heat resistance, tensile strength, and chemical resistance. These properties made asbestos a popular choice for various industrial and construction applications. There are six types of asbestos, but the most used are chrysotile, amosite, and crocidolite.
Health Risks Associated with Asbestos Exposure
Asbestos fibers are hazardous when inhaled or ingested because they can become lodged in the lungs and other body tissues. It can lead to several severe health problems, including these:
- Asbestosis: Asbestosis is a chronic lung disease that causes scarring of lung tissue and difficulty breathing.
- Mesothelioma: Mesothelioma is a very rare but very intense form of cancer that impacts mainly the lungs and abdomen.
- Lung cancer: Exposure to asbestos fiber can worsen your lung health and inhaling can increase the risk of lung cancer by damaging your lungs.
- Other cancers: Asbestos exposure, mainly through ingestion has also been linked to cancers of the larynx, ovaries, and gastrointestinal tract.
Common Uses of Asbestos in the Workplace
Asbestos was widely used in various industries before its dangers became well-known. The many uses of asbestos in the workplace includes the insulation material used for pipes and boilers. Due to their strength and agility, they are also used in fireproofing materials, coatings, and cement.
It could even be used within the automotive parts of your work car, such as brake linings and clutch plates. Beware of the gaskets and seals for machinery because these asbestos fibers also exist in other places.
How Your Workplace Can Expose You to Asbestos
The news of General Electric workers in Springfield having been exposed to asbestos is a shocking reminder that asbestos exposure was, and may still be, a pressing issue in many work environments. That is why you must be more aware of your workplace surroundings.
Occupations at Risk for Asbestos Exposure
Some occupations pose a higher risk for asbestos exposure than others. Workers in the following industries are more likely to encounter asbestos:
- Construction and demolition
- Shipbuilding and repair
- Automotive repair
- HVAC installation and maintenance
- Mining and milling
- Power plant operation and maintenance
- Manufacturing of asbestos-containing products
Types of Asbestos-Containing Products Found in the Workplace
Asbestos may be present in various products and materials found in the workplace, such as these:
- Insulation materials
- Fireproofing materials
- Roofing and siding materials
- Cement and plaster products
- Gaskets and seals
- Floor tiles and adhesives
- Textured coatings and paints
Workplace Activities That Can Release Asbestos Fibers
Asbestos fibers can become airborne during certain workplace activities, leading to potential exposure. These activities include the following:
- Cutting, drilling, or sanding asbestos-containing materials
- Demolition of buildings containing asbestos
- Maintenance and repair of asbestos-containing products
- Disturbance of asbestos-containing materials during renovations or remodeling
Recognizing Symptoms of Asbestos-Related Illnesses
Symptoms of asbestos-related illnesses may only appear years or even decades after the exposure. Some common symptoms include these:
- Persistent cough
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain or tightness
- Unexplained weight loss
- Difficulty swallowing
Seeking Medical Attention for Asbestos Exposure
If you suspect you’ve been exposed to asbestos or are experiencing any of the above-mentioned symptoms, seeking medical attention as soon as possible is crucial. Inform your doctor about your potential exposure and ask for a thorough evaluation, including lung imaging and pulmonary function tests.
Legal Options for Asbestos-Related Illnesses
If you’ve developed an asbestos-related illness due to workplace exposure, you may be entitled to compensation for your medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering. Consult an experienced asbestos attorney to discuss your legal options and evaluate your case.
Asbestos exposure continues to be a significant concern in various workplaces, putting workers at risk for severe health problems. It’s essential to be aware of the potential dangers, recognize the symptoms of asbestos-related illnesses, and take appropriate action if exposed.
By staying informed and proactive, you can protect your health and seek justice if you’ve been affected by asbestos-related diseases.