The Industrial Revolution led to a rapid increase in the use of asbestos that continued until the mid-1970s. Asbestos could be found in just about every product made during the twentieth century and also found its way into homes and other buildings. Unfortunately, asbestos can be very dangerous, leading to the development of mesothelioma and other cancers.
What is Asbestos?
Asbestos is a group of minerals that occur naturally as bundles of microscopic fibers. When released into the air, the fibers can be breathed in and remain in the lungs for long periods of time. An individual may have these fibers in their lungs for decades before serious complications develop.
There are two main types of asbestos – chrysotile (known as white asbestos) and amphibole. Chrysotile was the most common type of asbestos used in industrial applications. Chrysotile fibers wrap around themselves in the shape of a spiral, which has led to chrysotile being referred to as “serpentine” or “curly” asbestos. Amphibole asbestos is straight and needle-like. It includes several different types of asbestos, including amosite (brown asbestos), crocidolite (blue asbestos), tremolite, actinolite, and anthophyllite. Both chrysotile and amphibole are known to cause cancer and can lead to the development of mesothelioma.
Evidence that breathing in asbestos fibers causes scarring of the lungs was found during the first half of the 1900s, but for many decades the dangers of asbestos fibers were downplayed or ignored because of the benefits of asbestos. Asbestos is strong, heat-resistant, and does not conduct electricity. As a result, it became tremendously well-suited for insulation applications, including in ships, homes, and other structures. While asbestos use sharply declined beginning in the 1980s, it can still be found today, particularly in older homes or buildings.
What to Do After Exposure to Asbestos
If you believe you have come into contact with asbestos, the first step is to assess the level and length of exposure. If you were in contact with a small amount of asbestos fibers and for a short period of time, the danger that any health issues will arise is probably low. However, prolonged exposure of high levels can significantly increase your risk of developing cancer. This level of exposure often occurred with people whose work history involved dealing with products with asbestos. For example, individuals such as carpenters, shipbuilders, or power plant workers were often exposed to high levels of asbestos fibers while on the job.
It is important to speak with your doctor about your exposure to asbestos. Additionally, it may be advisable to see a specialist in asbestos-related diseases. Your doctor may recommend that you undergo regular chest x-rays or CT scans and lung function tests. Evidence indicates that early detection of asbestos-related disease can be important in treatment and lengthening the victim’s life.
Finally, there are symptoms to watch out for that, if they arise, are reason to contact your doctor immediately. These symptoms include shortness of breath, new or worsening cough, pain and/or tightness in the chest, trouble swallowing, or unintended weight loss.
If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, it is likely that you will face significant costs for medical treatment. In some cases, it is possible to pursue a damage claim against those who are responsible for your exposure to asbestos. For more information, speak with an experienced attorney today. At the Throneberry Law Group, we provide expert and caring legal representation to victims of exposure to asbestos