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Asbestos Lawyers – Helping Asbestosis Victims Seek Justice

We provide information on asbestosis law, mesothelioma and other asbestos related areas.

Any of a diverse group of silicate materials that are fibrous in structure and are more resistant to acid and fire than other materials are known as asbestos. Asbestos has two forms: serpentine and amphibole; and is made of impure magnesium silicate. It is used for thermal insulation, fire proofing, electrical insulation, building materials, brake linings and has been used in numerous industries.

Both serpentine and amphibole asbestos exhibit physical and chemical resistance to high temperatures and applied force. The raw ore are made up of fibrous strands. Its strands then continue to split into smaller and thinner fibers as disturbance continues and increases. Initially, asbestos’ ore form divides into visible strands, fiber bundles and individual fibers. But those visible strands, bundles, and fibers will continue to split into microscopic fibers, bundles, and strands. The splitting will continue on to minute levels of microscopic levels of detection. Asbestos has a distinctive process making airborne asbestos a problem. Also, the fibers can become so small that they stay airborne longer and pass undetected by the respiratory dust defenses.

Serpentines can be differentiated through their physical characteristics. The serpentines split into curly, wavy fibers that show little resistance to being bent or spiraled. While the amphibole fibers are needlelike shards that show great resistance to being bent or curled. The Serpentines appear like man-made wool and amphiboles are like man-made fiberglass.

Asbestos also has three types: chrysotile, amosite, and crocidolite. The chrysotile asbestos, which is the chief commercial asbestos today, is serpentine and amosite and crocidolite are amphibole. While the amosite is used in insulating materials; and, crocidolite is used for making asbestos-cement products.

The chief producer of asbestos is Canada, which has some of the largest asbestos mine fields in the world. Other producers are Cyprus, Zimbabwe, Russia, the Republic of South Africa, and the United States of America.

Asbestos is a strong carcinogen, that is, a cancer-causing substance that poses a serious health hazard. Asbestos is known to cause pleural plaques, mesothelioma, asbestosis, and causes cancers of the lung, esophagus, and colon. The diseases caused by asbestos have a long latency period, usually taking ten to forty years before symptoms of the disease become visible. Apparently, people who worked with installing asbestos as insulation and other materials in the 1970s are just now coming to realize that they are developing cancer at alarming rates.

History of Asbestos

More than 2,000 years ago, asbestos had already been in use. Named by the Ancient Greeks, asbestos originally means “inextinguishable.” The Greeks were also able to distinguish its harmful biological effects. Stunned by asbestos’ seemingly magical properties, the Greek geographer Strabo and the Roman naturalist Pliny the Elder ignored the symptoms caused by asbestos despite discovering the “sickness of the lungs” in the slaves that wove asbestos into cloth.

Asbestos was popularly used by Greeks for the wicks of the eternal flames of the vestal virgins, the funeral dress worn by kings for cremation, and as napkins. There are rumors that Romans threw asbestos napkins into the fire for the napkin to be cleaned. The napkin semerged from the fire whiter so the Romans called asbestos “amianatus” which literally means “unpolluted.”

During the middle ages, asbestos use declined; yet some say that Charlemagne obtained asbestos tablecloths and that some of Marco polo’s items on his travels were made from asbestos.

In the 1700s, asbestos was brought back to use but did not become popular until the late 1800s during the Industrial Revolution. This time, however, asbestos was used in a different way — that is as insulation for steam pipes, turbines, kilns, boilers, ovens, and other high-temperature products. The health risks associated with asbestos seem to have been forgotten or ignored.

When the twentieth century began, researchers started to notice large number of deaths and lung problems in asbestos mining towns. It was in 1917 to 1918 that several studies in the United States observed that asbestos workers died unnaturally young.

In 1924, the first diagnosis of asbestosis was accomplished through a woman who had been working with asbestos since age thirteen. The woman died when she was thirty-three years old, and an English doctor determined that the cause of death was what he called “asbestosis.” This instance encouraged a study on asbestos among English workers. The study revealed that 25 percent had asbestos-related lung disease problems. Laws were passed in 1931 to augment ventilation and to make asbestosis an excusable work-related disease. The United States would take ten more years to make this step.

In 1930s, major medical journals became vigilant regarding the asbestos issue and started to publish articles that linked asbestos to cancer. The re-discovery of asbestos-related diseases was put on the back burner for several years because of the emergence of silicosis — a lung disease which is caused by inhalation of silica dust. Workers affected by asbestos brought $300 million in lawsuits against their employers.

In effect, asbestos companies were warned and afterwards tried to cover up asbestos risks. However, this did not totally stop the use of asbestos by other companies who continued to use it in manufacturing and construction. Other companies ruthlessly ignored the use of asbestos alternatives like fiberglass insulation in exchange of profit.

Occupations in Jeopardy with Asbestos Exposure

A lot of people from various occupations have suffered from asbestos exposure.  Workers from many trades were actually involved with asbestos at some point. Asbestos was commonly used in paper mills, shipyards, steel mills, petrochemical plants, factories, telephone industry and building construction. Nearly all construction and design-related activities pose a risk of asbestos-contact in different forms.

• Shipyard workers like electricians, insulators, laggers, laborers, painters, welders, pipe fitters and maintenance workers; longshoremen, Coast Guard personnel, merchant mariners, and U.S. Navy personnel who are working and living in ships employing asbestos.

• Building engineers, manufacturers of building material, cement plant production workers, construction workers such as boilermakers, roofers, insulators, laborers, steel/ironworkers, steam fitters, plasterers, plumbers, cement and masonry workers, carpenters and HVAC mechanics all utilize products which contain asbestos.

• Workers in asbestos textile mills are in constant contact with asbestos while weaving it into the cloth. Protective clothing and glove makers are likewise exposed with asbestos.

• Workers in automobile manufacturing production, as well as brake repairers and automobile mechanics are using asbestos for clutch pads and brake linings. Similarly, brake and clutch manufacturing and assembly workers have contact with asbestos.

• Since electrical products contain asbestos, electrical workers including electricians, electrical and telephone linemen are exposed to asbestos.

• Wrecking and demolition crews of all trades are at hazard when they destroy buildings that utilized asbestos. The act of demolition lets the asbestos mix with the air and be inhaled.

• Custodians, insulation manufacturing plant workers, insulators, pipefitters, machinists, packing and gasket manufacturing plant workers, and powerhouse workers are constantly exposed to asbestos.

• Everyday, railroad workers, refinery workers, steamfitters, sheetmetal workers, rubber workers, warehouse workers and refractory products plant workers, are exposed to asbestos

• In the flight industry, asbestos is being used. It follows that aircraft manufacturing production workers, aircraft mechanics are all at risk and aerospace and missile production workers are affected by asbestos.

• Essentially, construction workers from all trades are at risk.

• The family members of people exposed to asbestos-prone industries and the guard dogs at asbestos plants are facing the threat of asbestos exposure.

Relationships between Asbestos, Smoking and Lung Cancer

A good deal attention has been paid to the relationship between smoking and lung cancer; a lot of people automatically assume that’s the only cause. It is very essential to understand that while smoking is certainly a potential cause of lung cancer, it is not the sole cause of lung cancer in humans.

According to statistics, cigarette smoking alone increases the risk of lung cancer by a factor of 10 or so; heavy asbestos exposure alone increases the risk of lung cancer by a factor of 5 or so; and the combination of the two independent carcinogens increases the risk factor by about 50 times.

As a result, it does not just add the risk posed by asbestos to the menace posed by cigarette smoking. Both asbestos and smoking multiplies the risk by an unquantifiable, but significantly greater, factor and the relationship is referred to as the “synergistic effect” of smoking and asbestos exposure. Simply stated, one plus one does not equal two but it equals five or more.

Asbestos Litigation

Asbestos litigation is based upon the liability of manufacturers of asbestos and asbestos products, for the damage caused by exposure to those products. It was once considered that asbestos litigation had peaked, but because of the fact that thirty or more years can pass before asbestos disease becomes obvious, many new cases are filed each year. Since the litigation of these cases began, many companies have been forced into bankruptcy.

A lawyer who handles mesothelioma cases will normally be able to resolve the case within a year. Many of the firms take these cases on a national level, and can choose the best state in which to file a lawsuit for a client who was exposed to asbestos at more than one place, starting litigation in association with a local attorney.

Asbestos-Contained Products

Three-quarters of asbestos supply all over the world is mined in Quebec, Canada; and other large deposits are located in South Africa. The most common method of mining asbestos is called open-pit mining. Nonetheless, only 6%of the mined ore contains usable fibers. The process continues by splitting the fibers obtained from the ore by air suction, crushing, and vibrating screens. While undergoing that process, fibers are classified into seven lengths or grades, Group One being the longest. As the grade increases, the length is shorter. Group Seven is the shortest and is commonly termed as mild asbestos. The most widely utilized method is the Quebec Standard Test Method. Products that can be done with asbestos are determined by the fiber length and its chemical composition. The shorter ones are ideal for molded materials like gaskets and pipes while the longer fibers are utilized for fabric especially with rayon and cotton.

Since 1900s asbestos were already popularly used in several products; and during the years 1950 to 1975, it had achieved its peak of usage. Asbestos was considered an ideal material, because it’s fire and acid resistant while resembling fibers such as cotton and wool in its pliability and softness; making it possible to be woven and spun into fireproof garments.

Asbestos was once used in creating fireproof protection garments, for firefighters’ and other people who worked with intense heat and was also used in gas masks. In addition, it could also act as insulation and thermal proofing for pipes, electric products and boilers through woven sheets.
Asbestos can be spray applied as fireproofing, can coat brake linings and clutch pads and other friction exposed materials to avoid the effect of heat caused by friction.

Imagine how many materials are involved in construction. Asbestos is present in cement pipes, packing, roofing shingles, jointing, floor and ceiling tiles, asphalt coats and sealant, gaskets, paneling, and acoustical and decorative applications.

Asbestos Related Lung Cancer

Lung cancer or bronchial carcinoma can occur in several forms. Smoking and asbestos are the most common causes of lung cancer. Not all asbestos-related lung cancer is mesothelioma. Some thoracic carcinomas, like adenocarcinoma, are also caused by exposure to asbestos.

The relation between asbestos exposure and lung cancer was noted as early as 1925, and confirmed over the next 70 years by a number of epidemiologic studies of asbestos-exposed workers. Four types of commercially used asbestos, chrysotile, amosite, anthophyllite, and mixtures containing crocidolite, have all been associated with an increased risk of lung cancer. In relation to this, about one in every seven people who suffer from asbestosis, a lung disease resulting from high exposure to asbestos, eventually develop lung cancer.

There is a link between cigarette smoking and asbestos exposure in causing lung cancer. For instance, asbestos workers who smoke are exposed to a much higher risk than asbestos workers who do not. The National Cancer Institute have shown evidence that suggests that asbestos-exposed workers who quit smoking can reduce their risk of developing lung cancer by 50 percent within five years of quitting.

How great is the risk of Asbestos related illnesses?

Not all workers exposed to asbestos will acquire diseases from their exposure. Actually, many will experience no ill effects.

Asbestos bonded into finished products such as tiles, walls, and pipes creates no risk to health as long as it is not damaged or disturbed (i.e., by sawing or drilling) in such a way as to release fibers into the air. When asbestos particles are inhaled, exposed individuals are at risk of developing an asbestos-related disease. Once these fibers work into body tissues, they may stay there indefinitely.

The danger of developing asbestos-related diseases differs with the type of industry in which the exposure happened and with the extent of the exposure. Furthermore, various types of asbestos fibers may be related with different health risks. There are a lot of asbestos varieties, and some studies suggest that some forms of asbestos are more likely than others to cause asbestosis, lung cancer, and mesothelioma. Despite that, no fiber type can be considered harmless, and people working with asbestos should always take correct safety measures.

Currently, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has three standards to protect workers from exposure to asbestos in the workplace:

• control of the construction work, including alteration, renovation, repair, and demolition of structures containing asbestos
• exposure of asbestos in shipyards
• asbestos exposure in general industry, for instance, exposure during clutch and break repair, custodial work, and making of asbestos-containing products.

In addition, the Environmental Protection Agency’s “Worker Protection Rule” expands standards implemented by OSHA to state and local employees who do asbestos work and who are not included by the OSHA Asbestos Standards, or by a state OSHA plan. The Worker Protection Rule is similar to OSHA requirements and covers medical examinations, protective equipment, work practices, air monitoring and reporting, and record keeping. Moreover, many State and local agencies have stricter standards than the requirements of the Federal government.

Your Right to Compensation

Victims of asbestos injuries can demand compensation from the manufacturers of asbestos. The amount of compensation differs in each individual case, but it is often a considerable amount of money (as much as six or seven figures). This compensation is not really a bonus. If you are suffering from an asbestos disease, it is most likely not your own fault. Asbestos companies try to hide the fact that asbestos is risky, and made billions of dollars selling deadly products. You, the unsuspecting user, are now paying the highest price.

Anyone who was injured from exposure to asbestos has a possible legal claim against the manufacturers of asbestos products. This can be considerable for several reasons. The medical costs related with treating a disease such as mesothelioma can be quite staggering. In addition, legal compensation can support a spouse or loved one that the victim may leave behind, or create a college fund for grandchildren.

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