Asbestos is a naturally-occurring mineral that can break into tiny fibers. These fibers are so small that they cannot be seen with the naked eye, but they are small enough to enter the lungs and cause damage. The dangers of asbestos have been known for decades, and if you work at a New York construction site where you have been exposed to asbestos and have developed disease from it, then you might be eligible to receive compensation.
Why Is Asbestos Exposure Dangerous?
The fibers in asbestos can break down so fine that they can enter the air sacs of your lungs. They might puncture the tissue or just remain in place. Your body cannot break down asbestos, so it can remain there for years.
Asbestos rarely causes disease at the time of exposure. It is a silent disease that creeps up over time. The more asbestos exposure you have, the more likely you are to develop lung disease. Also, factors like smoking, genetics, and existing lung disease increase the risk.
You can get several different diseases from asbestos exposure. One is asbestosis, which is a continual build-up of scar tissue in the lungs. Mesothelioma is cancer that starts in the lungs and can spread to other organs and tissues. It can also cause other types of lung cancer and cancer in other parts of the body. All these diseases make it more difficult to breathe over time.
How Common Is Asbestos Exposure?
According to the American Cancer Institute, millions of Americans have been exposed to asbestos and do not even know it. At one time, asbestos was known to be used in over 3,000 products. They included:
- Brake linings
- Acoustical plaster
- Wall panels
- Electrical insulation
- Spray-on fireproofing
- Pipe insulation
- Asphalt floor tiles
- Wallboard or sheetrock
These are only a few examples of the types of common materials where asbestos is found. It can be found in almost any building material and many other products. Although asbestos has been used for thousands of years, it first began to become common in industrial use as early as 1858. A rapid increase in use was seen from the 1930s through the 1970s. It was not completely banned by the EPA until 1989 with a slow phase-out planned. Some products were exempted from the ban and continue to be produced with asbestos.
Anyone working in a trade where they come into contact with asbestos-containing material could potentially be exposed. Those working in the automotive and aerospace industries are at special risk for exposure to asbestos fibers. Other occupations frequently exposed to asbestos include:
- HVAC service and repair persons
- Construction trades
- Insulation specialists
- Flooring professionals
- Shipyard workers
- Home remodelers
The chances of working in an environment that exposes you to asbestos are high, and these are only a few examples of the types of trades and work environments that might involve asbestos-containing materials. Exposure to asbestos and the risk of developing disease from it is not limited to the workers themselves. Those who live with people who are exposed to asbestos are also at risk for developing associated diseases. Here is a list of New York job sites with asbestos, but you could be exposed to asbestos even if you work on a job site that is not on this list. Those who do residential repair work can also be exposed to it.
What Can Be Done?
Employers who have workers known to be potentially exposed to asbestos must take precautions to keep workers as safe as possible. These measures can include taking actions to reduce or mitigate exposure. They might also be required to provide personal protective equipment and provide recordkeeping and monitoring.
Unfortunately, once disease from asbestos exposure has occurred, diseases from it are progressive and require drastic treatments, like chemotherapy or surgery. Employers have a responsibility to try to protect employees and inform them of workplace hazards. If you have been exposed to asbestos and diagnosed with any asbestos-related disease, you might be entitled to compensation. It is worth a call to a litigation expert who specializes in asbestos to see if you might have compensation owed to you.