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Asbestos Exposure: The Cause of Mesothelioma Cancer

Asbestos Exposure

Have You Been Exposed to Asbestos?

For decades, asbestos has been used in hundreds of products throughout the United States and around the world. It can be found in manufactured goods, building materials, friction products, industrial machinery, laboratory equipment, and countless other products.

Asbestos exposure is the only known cause of mesothelioma, a devastating cancer that attacks the lining of the lungs, chest cavity, and abdominal cavity. It also has been shown to cause asbestosis, pleural mesothelioma and other serious lung conditions.

For many years, companies that produced asbestos products or used asbestos materials in their factories knew about the dangers but failed to warn workers. Decades later, many of these hardworking men and women are coping with life-threatening asbestos-related diseases.

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with mesothelioma or another asbestos disease, you should know that you may be entitled to financial compensation. Let us connect you with a respected asbestos attorney who can review your options and help your family make a plan for moving forward. You don’t have to cope with this alone, get answers to your questions about asbestos from us.

Who Is at Risk of Asbestos Exposure?

Asbestos was widely used in many products and building materials during much of the 20th century. Asbestos is still not completely banned in the U.S. In fact, 33 million houses and businesses in the U.S. still contain asbestos, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates.

Most people who are diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma were exposed to asbestos on the job or during military service. Some were exposed in their own homes. Families of workers who were exposed to asbestos in the workplace are also at risk. Asbestos fibers would often cling to the clothing and hair of workers, then fall off at home, creating second-hand, or “take-home,” exposure among family members. See history of asbestos.

Occupational Exposure to Asbestos

People who worked in the following fields were most at risk of occupational asbestos exposure:

  • Plumbers and pipefitters
  • Electricians
  • Boilermakers
  • Steamfitters
  • Carpenters, welders, and painters
  • Mechanics
  • Engineers
  • Firefighters
  • Aircraft mechanics
  • Maintenance mechanics
  • Navy veterans
  • Navy yard workers
  • Merchant Marine seamen

Anyone who has been diagnosed with an asbestos disease after being exposed on the job should seek legal advice about their options for financial compensation. Let our team connect you with an experienced asbestos lawyer who can help you and your family figure out your next steps.

Veterans’ Exposure to Asbestos

Asbestos was widely used in equipment on Navy ships, Army tanks, and Air Force aircraft prior to the 1980s. Thousands of veterans are now suffering from various asbestos-related diseases, including mesothelioma, asbestos lung cancer, and asbestosis, caused by exposure while serving the military.

Statistics show that military veterans account for more than one-third of the 3,000 malignant mesothelioma cases reported annually in the United States. Because the disease has a long incubation period — as long as 60 years — many veterans over the age of 60 are just now showing symptoms of asbestos cancers.

Our team helps veterans and families who are coping with asbestos illnesses. Our nationally recognized asbestos attorneys represent hundreds of veterans in mesothelioma lawsuits. Our attorneys will also handle your claim for VA benefits. You should know that you will not being suing the military when you file an asbestos claim. Instead, compensation will come from the asbestos companies that sold asbestos products to the military.

Second-Hand Exposure to Asbestos

Asbestos exposure was not limited to those who worked directly with the dangerous material. Microscopic fibers were often carried home on workers’ clothing, skin, or hair, putting family members at risk of exposure as well.

Family members who are diagnosed with mesothelioma after suffering second-hand exposure to asbestos also have a right to seek financial compensation. Contact us today to talk about your legal options and to learn about additional support services.

What Products Contain Asbestos?

Many people were exposed to asbestos through common household and automobile products that contained the cancer-causing material. Asbestos was commonly used in:

  • Insulation
  • Piping
  • Ceiling tile
  • Textured paint
  • Floor tiles
  • Patching compounds
  • Roofing
  • Siding
  • Cement
  • Automobile clutches
  • Automobile brakes
  • Transmission parts

Asbestos was also one of the primary ingredients in many industrial products, including:

  • Boilers
  • Joint compounds
  • Turbines
  • Pipe insulation
  • Pumps
  • Tanks
  • Valves
  • Gaskets
  • Packing
  • Generators
  • Brakes
  • Electrical equipment

Anyone who worked directly with asbestos products or in areas where the products were being cut, sawed, sanded, or mixed were likely exposed. In addition, renovation and demolition projects on older buildings can still put workers and homeowners at risk of asbestos exposure.

During installation, repair, replacement, or demolition, asbestos fibers can become airborne. Fibers may also be released into water through erosion of natural deposits, corrosion from asbestos pipes, or roofing materials containing asbestos that go into the sewer.

There is no safe level of asbestos. Even small amounts of asbestos fiber and infrequent exposure create a risk for developing a serious illness.

What to Do If You Were Exposed to Asbestos

Not everyone who is exposed to asbestos gets an asbestos-related disease. However, if you suspect you were exposed, schedule an appointment with your doctor.

Your doctor may recommend regular chest X-rays or CT scans and lung function tests. These tests don’t detect asbestos fibers, but they can detect early signs of lung disease caused by asbestos.

What Are the Symptoms of Asbestos Exposure?

Symptoms of asbestos diseases are often similar to those of other respiratory diseases like the flu, pneumonia, or COPD. Mesothelioma can cause fluid buildup in your lungs, abdomen, and heart; pain in your chest, stomach, and back; weight loss; and fatigue.

Questions & Answers

Where Can I Find Accredited Asbestos Abatement Professionals Near Me?

State and local health departments or EPA regional offices have the most up-to-date listings of accredited asbestos removal professionals.


What should an asbestos inspection include?

The asbestos inspection should include a complete visual examination and collection of lab analysis of samples.

The inspector should describe the location and extent of damage in a written evaluation and recommend correction or prevention. The inspector may recommend and perform checks after the work to ensure the area has been properly cleaned.

What Should I Do to Help?

Simply put, don’t do anything. Do not disturb any asbestos by:

  • Dusting
  • Sweeping
  • Vacuuming

Should I Repair and Remove It?

If asbestos is found, the two types of corrections are containment or removal, which should be done by professionals:

  • Containment usually involves sealing or covering the material.
  • Removal should be considered as the option for most situations. This is recommended when containment is not an option. It’s complex and can only be done by a professional because improper removal increases the risk of fiber release.

What Is an Asbestos Professional?

An asbestos professional should be accredited by the Environmental Protection Agency to handle asbestos. There are two types of accreditations: inspectors and contractors.

  • Asbestos inspectors can assess conditions, take samples of questionable material for testing, and suggest what corrections should be made in a home or building. If asbestos is contained or removed, inspectors can make sure proper procedures are followed, including clean up, and can inspect the air for asbestos fibers.
  • Asbestos contractors can safely contain or remove asbestos-containing materials. Federal law does not require asbestos contractors working in detached single-family homes to be trained and accredited, but some state and local laws do require accreditation. To ensure safety, it is recommended that homeowners work with qualified asbestos contractors.

What Should Asbestos Contractors Do?

Find out what the regulations are from your state and local health departments, the Environmental Protection Agency’s regional office, or the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s regional office. Be sure the contractor follows local asbestos removal and disposal laws.

  • Asbestos contractors and workers must use proper equipment such as wearing approved respirators, gloves, and other protective clothing.
  • The contractor should clearly mark the hazard area and seal it from the rest of the house and also turn off the heating and air-conditioning system.
  • Household members and pets should not enter the area until work is completed.
  • Assure the contractor cleans the area well with wet mops, wet rags, sponges, or HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) vacuum cleaners. Get written assurance that all procedures have been followed. Air monitoring may be necessary to ensure that the contractor’s job is done properly.

How Can I Identify Asbestos?

Asbestos is identified with a specified microscope. If you think a material contains asbestos, have it sampled by a qualified professional. Professionals have federal government training or certification courses. Some states have consulting agencies, individual consultants, and inspectors to conduct an asbestos survey in public buildings, with contractors who remove asbestos. State and local health departments or EPA regional offices may have listings of licensed professionals in each area.

If you’re not sure if something is asbestos, assume it is until verified otherwise. If at work, report asbestos as soon as possible to the health and safety representative or your employer. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) can provide more information or make an inspection to determine whether there is asbestos and whether it poses a risk. This may involve testing the air for asbestos levels.

With asbestos-containing materials, never:

  • Drill
  • Damage
  • Hammer
  • Move
  • Cut
  • Disturb
  • Saw
  • Sand
  • Break
  • Attempt to remove or sample yourself

If you find any form of asbestos has been dislodged, this needs to be cleaned up immediately by asbestos abatement workers. Hire a qualified contractor to perform this job to avoid contaminating the space further or causing any additional exposure.

What Should I Do Before I Hire an Asbestos Abatement Professional?

1. Check the inspector or contractor’s credentials carefully.

Although some states and localities require asbestos inspectors and contractors in detached single-family homes to be trained and accredited, federal law does not. For safety, homeowners should require proof that workers are trained and accredited. Each worker in your home should provide proof of training and licensing.

2. Avoid conflicts of interest.

The inspector should not be connected with an asbestos-correction firm, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) warns. Two unaffiliated firms ensure there is no conflict of interest.

3. Ask for references from previous clients.

Contact those clients, and find out if they were satisfied. The CPSC warns that there have been reports of firms incorrectly claiming asbestos materials in homes must be replaced, wasting homeowner’s money.

4. Ask whether the professional has handled similar situations.

Firms have been known to encourage improper methods, the CPSC warns. Improper handling of asbestos abatement risks the health of the homeowners and their family.

5. Ask if the firm has had any safety violations.

Check with your local environmental expert, the local agency responsible for worker safety, and the Better Business Bureau. Find out if there are legal actions filed against the business.

6. Get cost estimates from several professionals. Costs can vary.

7. Get a written contract that should specify:

  • Work plan
  • Cleanup
  • Applicable federal, state, and local regulations that the contractor must follow (such as notification requirements and asbestos disposal procedures)

Could a family member have been exposed to asbestos as well?

Family members of veterans who worked around asbestos may have come into contact with microscopic fibers brought home on uniforms. Although the greater the exposure, the greater the risk for developing mesothelioma, family members who faced little exposure are still at risk. There is no safe level of asbestos exposure.

Sources & Author:

  1. U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Work-Related Lung Disease Surveillance System (eWoRLD)
  2. National Cancer Institute: Asbestos Exposure and Cancer Risk
  3. Occupational Safety & Health Administration: Asbestos
  4. World Health Organization: Global mesothelioma deaths reported to the World Health Organization between 1994 and 2008
  5. U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Asbestos
  6. American Cancer Society: Asbestos and Cancer Risk
  7. U.S. Government Publishing Office: Asbestos
  8. Australian Government National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme: Chrysotile
  9. Encyclopedia Britannica: Asbestos Mineral
  10. U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission: Asbestos in the Home
  11. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: Protect Your Family from Asbestos-Contaminated Vermiculite Insulation
  12. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and National Institutes of Health: 12th Report on Carcinogens (RoC)

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