Though it was once considered safe, it is now categorized as carcinogenic and many of the people exposed to it have developed deadly diseases, including cancer.
What is Asbestos?
Asbestos is a natural mineral that was used in commercial and industrial settings, and in the building of private and public buildings because the fibers are durable, and heat and fire resistant.
After a link between asbestos and cancer was made, the use of asbestos diminished. However, there are still many places where asbestos can be found, including schools and older homes.
In addition to the buildings where asbestos is found, it was also used to make a variety of household items and appliances, including hair dryers and toasters.
Asbestos poses a moderate risk if it’s stable, but if the microscopic fibers become airborne and are inhaled, the risks are severe. This is because the particles cling to the lungs and trigger inflammation and a variety of other health problems.
Asbestos has been linked to at least three fatal diseases, including mesothelioma, lung cancer, and asbestosis.
Is Asbestos Illegal?
Asbestos guidelines were issued in the late 1970s, but the material was never officially banned.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t until many people spent their lives exposed to the material that the use of the product tapered off. There are still many homes and public buildings that contain asbestos, in part because it’s difficult to remove safely. In some instances, leaving asbestos alone is actually a safer option than remediation. However, asbestos poses a risk any time it is present.
Asbestos was most widely used from the 1930s to the 1970s. Anyone exposed to it can develop a health issue, but it is those who were exposed on a regular basis who have the highest risk.
For example, statistics show the highest rates of asbestos occur in Navy Veterans who were active during WWII and the Korean Conflict because they were on ships that contained the material.
Asbestos is one of the leading causes of occupational cancer.
Death rates continue to be high for people who had long-term exposure to asbestos. By the time asbestos guidelines were issued in 1979, 45,000 people had already died. Approximately 10,000 people die each year of asbestosis-related diseases.
What is Mesothelioma?
One of the most common illnesses to occur due to asbestos exposure is mesothelioma. It is aggressive cancer caused by exposure to asbestos.
Symptoms of the disease do not arise until decades after asbestos exposure, which means many of the people who worked with asbestos during the mid-1900s are just now developing health problems. Of the nearly 30 million works exposed to asbestos during the mid-1900s, many are only now learning of their cancer.
It is expected that mesothelioma rates will continue to stay steady or even rise until at least the mid-2020s.
Asbestos is one of the most devastating forms of cancer in existence, in part because there is so little that can be done to treat it.
Furthermore, many cases of asbestos exist today because the risks of working with the mineral were ignored for so long. Scientists linked asbestos to cancer as early as the 1930s, but companies continued to use the known carcinogen, putting employees and consumers at risk. Despite corporations knowing asbestos to be a dangerous substance, they allowed a worker to be exposed to it and continued to sell products that contained it.
Even today, asbestos remains legal, though it’s not widely used as it once was.
Though nothing can undo the damage caused by long-term asbestos exposure, many victims and their families have received compensation to offset the cost of medical care and help them with the support they need once they receive such a devastating diagnosis.