Exposure to Asbestos Can Be Serious — Even Criminal

Asbestos, which has been known to cause cancer since at least the 1970s, was often used as a building material because it has an important property - it doesn't catch fire easily. This quality made it a common choice in both residential and business construction throughout much of the 20th century.

Today we know that the hazards of asbestos - mesothelioma and lung cancer among them - are very serious. So serious, in fact, that a man in Colorado was recently convicted of multiple felonies when he undertook the demolition of a house containing asbestos materials without the proper containment precautions. Instead of licensed contractors, he hired homeless people to do the work - exposing them to a carcinogen that could potentially be fatal.

What makes asbestos so dangerous is its tiny, fibrous materials, which were often mixed with household building products to provide insulation and fire protection. When remodeling or demolition work is done to asbestos-containing materials, the tiny particles become airborne, but they are so tiny that they're invisible to the naked eye. Workers then breathe the particles into their lungs, setting the stage for deadly cancer.

Anyone doing any sort of remodeling or demolition work in an older building should be aware of the dangers of asbestos. Even something as simple as drilling out a slightly larger hole in a bathroom wall to install a medicine cabinet could potentially expose a person to the tiny asbestos fibers. Those who work as contractors or in related building trades should be sure that their employer provides asbestos protection and training.

Although few companies are as cavalier about exposing their workers to asbestos as was the case for the Colorado man who was convicted of criminal charges, there are still many employees who are exposed to asbestos but do not know it. Fortunately, our legal system allows those companies responsible to be held accountable by those they have harmed to help pay for their injuries and medical expenses.

Over the years, asbestos has found its way into many items found in workplaces, from ceiling tiles to heat-resistant gloves. Because mesothelioma generally takes years or even decades to develop, it often means that it can be hard to document how the asbestos exposure originally took place. That's why anyone facing a diagnosis of mesothelioma or lung cancer should talk to an experienced personal injury attorney who is familiar with asbestos exposure and has the resources to fully investigate how someone may have been exposed to the often-deadly material.