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Safety Today: Asbestos

The workers’ rights and workplace safety measures enacted in the 20th century have greatly improved U.S. labor as a whole. However, that does not mean all employees are always safe from harm today. Improper handling of machinery, exposure to chemicals, and other harmful substances still pose a serious risk.

One such hazard is the exposure to asbestos. For decades, asbestos was considered a wonder-product, used in almost every industry as an insulator. Asbestos was used heavily in construction and plumbing products and can be found in old floor tiles, ceiling tiles, roof shingles, siding, insulation (around boilers, ducts, pipes, sheeting, fireplaces), etc.

Asbestos crystals are very small and are easily carried in the air as dust. This means they end up in the throats, bronchi, and bronchioles of people exposed to it. Often times, the asbestos crystals enter into the lungs and become embedded in the lung tissue causing scarring. The scarring leads to diseases such as asbestosis, mesothelioma, and lung cancer.

We now know that any exposure to asbestos creates some risk of lung problems. Longer and larger exposures are correlated with increased risk, but there is no safe amount of contact.

Mesothelioma is a very rare form of lung cancer affecting the tissue surrounding the lungs. Almost every known case has occurred in someone who has been exposed to asbestos at work, home, or school.

Because the link between asbestos and mesothelioma has been proven repeatedly in a court of law, there are many trusts set up that allow victims to recover compensation. In fact, there is approximately $36 billion currently set aside to compensate future victims of asbestos exposure should they make claims. Mesothelioma and asbestosis can take 30-50 years to develop after exposure, so new claims continue to be submitted.

Since the 1930s, asbestos companies have known of the dangers involved in handling the product. Unfortunately, they hid this information from workers for decades, causing tens of thousands of unnecessary deaths that could have been prevented with proper safety measures. While asbestos has been heavily regulated and is no longer mined in the U.S., workers are still being exposed while handling and repairing old building materials made with asbestos.

Asbestos exposure is one of many dangers and injustices felt by today’s workers. The fight is not over. Whether you have suffered an injury from asbestos or any other work-related hazard, Davis, Saperstein & Salomon, P.C. is available for a free and confidential consultation to explain your rights.