The industrial use of asbestos in the 20th century has led to hundreds of thousands of people developing asbestos related diseases. The most lethal of all illnesses triggered by asbestos exposure is mesothelioma, a form of cancer that develops in the chest, in the abdomen, or occasionally in the tissue lining the heart. The only known cause for mesothelioma is exposure to asbestos; specifically exposure to the tiny asbestos fibers that are thrown off of asbestos products that are deteriorating or disturbed in some fashion.
Asbestos fibers are tiny and lights; they can float in a cloud of dust for a long time. If a person working in the area of that dust cloud were to inhale asbestos fibers or somehow ingest them, he or she wouldn’t notice it. People working around asbestos products are generally unaware that they are being exposed to a carcinogen. The overwhelming percentage of asbestos related illnesses developed on the job site. A secondary source of asbestos exposure occurred when people who were exposed to asbestos fibers brought them home on their clothing. There have been many mesothelioma cases among wives or other family members who washed those clothes.
Asbestos on the Job
Millions of workers were exposed to asbestos; the use of asbestos peaked in the 1950s and began to taper off until it was banned in most products in 1978. Workers in shipyards and on board ship were hard hit because of the asbestos insulation used on many vessels. Asbestos products were also employed in oil refineries, chemical plants, refractories, steel mills, textile mills, wood processing plants and dozens of other sites. Asbestos was used to make gaskets, sealants, flooring, roofing, cement, and siding; asbestos insulation material was immensely popular for covering HVAC ducts. Workers in all the major industrial sectors were at risk for exposure to one of thousands of asbestos products that were on the market.
Asbestos at Home
Millions of homes were insulated with asbestos-based products. It was used in cement and in many of the common components found in home construction. Individuals who have purchased homes build during the 20th century are at risk of exposure from crumbling floor tiles or asbestos siding. Home remodelers today must be alert for asbestos products in homes built more than thirty years ago. Tearing out old wall insulation, siding, roofing, or floor tiles can cause asbestos fibers to become airborne and thus inhaled. There have been hundreds if not thousands of mesothelioma cases in women who were exposed to asbestos fibers on the clothes that the men in the household brought home from work.
Since 1975 over 800,000 lawsuits have been filed against companies who mined asbestos or used it in their products. Former employees and workers who used those products have developed asbestosis, asbestos lung cancer, and mesothelioma by the thousands. If you feel that past employment or home situations caused you to develop an asbestos-related disease, you may be eligible for compensation.