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Asbestos: what is it and why is it dangerous?

We often write about asbestos-related lawsuits and settlements. In this blog post, we'll aim to provide readers with basic information related to asbestos including why it's dangerous, where it's typically found and steps employers should take to protect workers from being exposed to asbestos.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration defines asbestos as being a "group of naturally occurring minerals that are resistant to heat and corrosion". Due to its durable properties, many building materials contain asbestos including floor tiles, insulation and brake pads. In cases where materials containing asbestos are disturbed, tiny particles can become airborne. When workers or building occupants inhale asbestos particles, some may develop serious health problems.

 

Workers most at risk to suffer asbestos exposure include those who work in the construction, automotive and shipping industries. In many cases, an individual who has been exposed to asbestos may not develop health problems until many years later. It can be challenging, therefore, to identify exactly when such deadly exposure occurred.

In an attempt to protect workers in industries deemed to have a high risk of possible asbestos exposure; OSHA has established numerous safety regulations that employers are required to follow. High risk employers must monitor levels of asbestos and, if detected, take steps to mitigate the risk of exposure to employees. In cases where asbestos readings are positive, employers must provide workers with protective gear as well as regular medical screenings.

Individuals who are exposed to asbestos may develop lung problems including a deadly form of cancer known as mesothelioma. For these individuals and their family members, taking legal action against companies suspected of exposing workers to asbestos may uncover safety violations and aid in the recovery of damages related to medical expenses, lost wages and disability.

Source: Occupational Safety & Health Administration, "Asbestos," 2014

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