Asbestos Exposure Increases Cancer Risk – Asbestos is a fibrous mineral that has been shown to cause cancers such as mesothelioma and lung cancer. It was commonly used in many industrial, commercial, building and household materials until the 1980s, and its use still has not been banned in the United States.
People who were exposed to asbestos may have inhaled the tiny fibers, which can lodge in the body and cause life-threatening respiratory diseases decades later.
The asbestos industry knew of the debilitating health risks of asbestos products for many years but failed to warn people. Today, the courts continue to hold these companies responsible for the damaging diseases caused by asbestos exposure.
Where Were People Exposed to Asbestos?
Asbestos exposure most often occurred on the job or during military service. However, the deadly material was also used in homes and in many household products.
Asbestos has been shown to cause a variety of occupational illnesses. Although the U.S. government has now developed safety regulations to protect workers from exposure, for decades people handled the deadly material without any safety protocols in place.
Some of the jobs where workers may have been exposed to asbestos include:
- Aircraft and auto mechanics
- Boilermakers and boiler tenders
- Cement finishers
- Construction workers
- Crane operators
- Firefighters and rescue workers
- Foundry workers
- Paper mill workers
- Power plant workers
- Sheetmetal workers
- Shipyard workers
This is by no means a comprehensive list of jobs where people were exposed. In fact, in any work environment where asbestos materials were used, everyone in the vicinity was at risk of inhaling the cancer-causing dust.
Still today, old asbestos equipment and materials remain in many buildings, and asbestos continues to be used in some industries. So proper precautions must be taken to protect workers.
In the Military
Asbestos companies sold many types of materials and equipment to the military for use in ships, aircraft, tanks, and buildings on bases across the United States. These asbestos products put servicemembers’ lives at risk. In fact, veterans represent about one-third of the new mesothelioma cases diagnosed every year in the U.S.
Navy veterans and civilian shipyard workers in particular were at risk of exposure. Asbestos components and equipment were heavily used on ships and in shipyards, where workers built, repaired and maintained Navy vessels in peacetime and in war. Ships typically had poor ventilation, and servicemembers were frequently exposed to asbestos in tight quarters such as boiler rooms and engine rooms.
Homes that were constructed prior to the 1980s likely contain asbestos materials. People may have been exposed during construction, routine maintenance, renovations and demolition of older homes. Some of the common household materials and equipment that could contain asbestos include:
- Insulation on pipes
- Attic insulation
- Vinyl floor tiles, linoleum and glue
- Ceiling tiles
- Glazing on windows
- Plaster and joint compound
- Corrugated panels
If you are not sure whether a material in your home contains asbestos, you should not disturb it. You should contact an asbestos abatement professional to have the material tested and discuss your options.
Secondhand Asbestos Exposure
Airborne asbestos fibers could cling to hair, skin and clothing, leaving a person coated in the deadly dust. Workers or servicemembers who were exposed to asbestos may have unknowingly carried the fibers home on uniforms or work clothes, resulting in “take-home” exposure for family members.
There is no safe amount of asbestos. Even secondhand exposure can cause mesothelioma and other debilitating asbestos diseases.
Diseases Tied to Asbestos Exposure
Asbestos has been called the “silent killer” because those who are exposed may not experience symptoms right away but may still develop life-threatening diseases decades later. Symptoms may start off minor and can be mistaken for a variety of other respiratory illnesses. This can lead to a delay in diagnosis, which can allow an aggressive asbestos disease to progress untreated.
Diseases and chronic health conditions that are caused by asbestos exposure include:
- Malignant mesothelioma, a cancer in the lining of the lungs, chest cavity, abdominal cavity and other vital organs
- Asbestos lung cancer
- Asbestosis or fibrosis
- Pleural plaques or diffuse pleural thickening
- Pleural effusions
- Rounded atelectasis
Not everyone who is exposed to asbestos develops a disease. However, because of the delayed onset of many asbestos illnesses, you should tell your doctor if you have been exposed.
Your doctor may order a chest X-ray or lung function test to check for problems. Additional imaging tests and a biopsy may be needed if you begin to experience respiratory issues. An early diagnosis is an important first step in fighting any asbestos disease.
Financial Help Is Available for People Diagnosed with Asbestos Diseases
If you or a family member has been diagnosed with an asbestos disease, you should know that compensation may be available. A knowledgeable asbestos attorney can help you pursue payment for:
- Medical bills, including for surgeries, hospital stays, chemotherapy, radiation, follow-up treatment, medications, and in-home care
- Lost wages, if you had to quit work due to your illness
- Physical and mental pain and suffering
- Wrongful death damages if you have lost a loved one to an asbestos cancer or other illness
In addition, you may be eligible for financial assistance through veterans’ benefits, Social Security Disability benefits or workers’ compensation payments. A skilled asbestos attorney can help you identify all your options for pursuing full and fair compensation after a diagnosis.
Mesothelioma Help is a valuable resource for people who have been diagnosed with asbestos diseases. Our partners there can explain your legal right to compensation, connect you with knowledgeable medical experts and answer any questions you may have. Visit Mesothelioma Help today to learn more about asbestos exposure.