Asbestos Consumption Rises in the U.S. Despite Health Problems

Scientists have known for years that exposure to asbestos can lead to deadly lung diseases such as asbestosis, mesothelioma and lung cancer. Yet many people are surprised to hear that although the U.S. stopped mining asbestos a decade ago, it still has a variety of manufacturing uses. In fact, the 2012 United States Geological Survey (USGS) Mineral Commodity Summaries reported that consumption of asbestos was up by 34% in the U.S. during the first half of 2011.

USGS Mineral Commodity Summaries

According to the USGS summaries, asbestos consumption in the U.S. was 1,100 metric tons from January through July of 2011 - compared to only 820 metric tons of asbestos consumption during the same period of 2010, according to the previous year's report.

Fortunately, most asbestos-based products have been phased out in favor of newer materials. But, much of the asbestos that is still used in the U.S. can be found in roofing materials - because despite its well-earned reputation as a killer, asbestos is a good insulator and is resistant to heat and fire.

Asbestos is also found in many automobile brake pads, again because of its resistance to the heat that builds up from the friction of applying the brakes. Most vehicle manufacturers phased out asbestos brake pads years ago, but the material is still found in some replacement brake parts, making asbestos exposure a danger for car mechanics, from the professional to the do-it-yourselfer.

Asbestos was also used in manufacturing and construction for much of the 20th century. It's a naturally-occurring mineral that has a crystal structure. That structure is what makes it so deadly - asbestos particles are long and thin, and so small and light that they're difficult to see with the naked eye. They're easily inhaled and because they're so small, they travel easily to the lungs, where they embed in the body and eventually cause disease - most notably, lung cancer and mesothelioma.

For those who have worked in asbestos mines in years past, it's easy enough to pinpoint the source of their asbestos-related disease. But for others who have been diagnosed with mesothelioma or other asbestos-related illnesses it can be more difficult. That's why it's important to put the resources of an experienced asbestos attorney to work in pinpointing the source of asbestos exposure.