Asbestos: The Slow and Silent Killer

Until just recently, Canada was exporting large quantities of asbestos to third-world countries like India - even as Canada worked to ban the product in its own territory. Although asbestos provides low-cost construction materials, the long-term risks on poor and unsuspecting populations raise significant ethical concerns. The consequences are so drastic that one health expert accused Canada of "being a purveyor of death around the world."

What is Asbestos?

Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral used in construction in many established countries for nearly a century. Once called the "magic mineral" for its insulation and fireproofing abilities, scientists discovered decades ago that asbestos was in fact highly toxic and responsible for illnesses such as lung disease and cancer.

Because it exists naturally in air, water and soil, everyone is exposed to asbestos at some point. However, this natural exposure is low in comparison to the exposure from air-borne fibers released when products containing asbestos are disturbed. Those tiny fibers can get caught in the lungs, causing scarring and inflammation with prolonged exposure. The inflammation, known as asbestosis, can cause shortness of breath, coughing and permanent lung damage.

Asbestos is also known to cause lung cancer and mesothelioma, a cancer affecting the thin lining of the chest and abdomen. For better or for worse, the symptoms of mesothelioma can take decades to manifest themselves. Unfortunately, that usually means that once the disease is detected there is little that can be done. Treatment options generally focus on improving quality of life and comfort.

Who Might Be Exposed?

People working in a variety of trades may have been, or may continue to be, exposed to asbestos. Shipbuilders, miners, textile manufacturers, construction workers, remodelers, boilermakers, pipefitters, insulators, electricians and automobile repair workers, as well as firefighters, all risk coming into contact with dangerous asbestos fibers. As these individuals potentially bring home asbestos fibers on their clothes, skin and hair, which also puts their family members at risk.

If you or a loved one has been experiencing health problems after being exposed to asbestos, contact an experienced attorney to discuss your situation and your options.