Asbestos is a natural mineral used in construction, manufacturing and other industries throughout the 1900s. The material resists fire, chemicals, heat and water. It can also be processed into different forms and products. Until 1971, the substance was not regulated in the workplace. Since it was flexible and fireproof, it was used in building materials, mattresses, consumer products, automotive parts and more.
In 1971, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) began regulating asbestos. Although control of asbestos tightened through the 1990s, the material was never banned. Even today, many products are made with asbestos.
The Danger of Asbestos
Research has shown that asbestos can potentially cause a form of cancer known as mesothelioma. The risk occurs when asbestos dust is produced and individuals breathe the fine grain in. When this happens, mesothelioma can develop. Mesothelioma is an aggressive cancer and is difficult for patients to fight. It attacks the lining of major organs, primarily the lungs.
In many cases, the cancer can take decades to develop. A worker may not realize they have been exposed until many years after they have left their workplace. Employees may not even be aware they have been exposed until they are diagnosed with mesothelioma.
Who Is at Risk?
Often, workers are most at risk for asbestos exposure. Even if individuals live in a home with asbestos siding or tiles, these items may not be unsafe in and of themselves until they are compromised and produce dust. In the workplace, however, employees may be exposed to much larger amounts of asbestos, and in many cases, may be working more closely with the mineral or may encounter it when it is dust — which is the most dangerous form of asbestos.
In many cases, those most at risk of asbestos exposure are those working in manufacturing or demolition — professions where dust is produced. At-risk occupations include:
- Construction profession workers
- Power plant workers
- Shipyard workers
- Industrial employees
- Mining workers
- Automotive workers
Managing Your Risk
If you work in a higher-risk occupation, it is important to speak with your doctor about your risk. Your physician can advise you on getting tested for cancer and can evaluate you to see whether you have been affected by your exposure. Long-term, a doctor can monitor your health to diagnose any problems early.
Preventing asbestos exposure is your best strategy for avoiding mesothelioma. You can do this by understanding and following all safety protocols for your job, every time you are on the job. If you think your employer may be violating safe work practices, you can contact OSHA or an attorney for advice. You have a right to a safe workplace, and there are policies in place to ensure you are safe at work.
If You’ve Already Been Diagnosed
If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, you need treatment. Discuss your options with an oncologist and your family doctor. Follow treatment plans and get support from support groups, friends and family.
Treating mesothelioma can be an involved and costly process. If you have been exposed to asbestos in the workplace and have mesothelioma, you may be able to file a legal claim against your former employers and any other liable parties. Compensation from a lawsuit can help you pay for treatment, can help you support your family and can help keep companies responsible for their actions and policies.
If you have been exposed to asbestos and have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, you may even be able to join a class action lawsuit. To find out what legal options may be possible, contact McCarthy Weisberg Cummings for a consultation. Our personal injury attorneys understand how difficult this diagnosis can be and will do everything possible to offer legal advice and representation.