What are the risks of asbestos exposure?

Workers who are repeatedly exposed to asbestos in their working environment may develop serious, life-threatening conditions.

There are a group of minerals naturally occurring in the environment known as asbestos, which are bundles of fibers that can be separated into threads that are thin and durable. Resistant to chemicals, heat, and fire, asbestos does not conduct electricity and for these reasons, it is used in many industries, including manufacturing, construction and automotive.

Although asbestos is widely used for numerous applications, the fibers that form asbestos separate extremely easily when they are damaged or handled improperly. Since these separated fibers are too small to see, they are easily breathed in, and they can cause health problems when they enter and build up in the lungs.

Health risks of asbestos exposure

There are two main life-threatening conditions that can be caused by repeated exposure to asbestos:

  1. Mesothelioma -- Although it is rare, this is the most common type of cancer associated with exposure to asbestos. Some of the symptoms of mesothelioma include a cough, difficulty breathing, pain around the rib cage, constipation, pain in the belly and fatigue.
  2. Asbestosis -- Like mesothelioma, asbestosis affects the lungs and can cause shortness of breath, a cough and permanent lung damage. Some of the symptoms of this disease include oddly wide or round fingernails and toe nails and chest pain.

Those who develop mesothelioma or asbestosis may not show symptoms for years after they were exposed to the asbestos on a repeated basis.

Who is at risk?

Since low levels of asbestos circulate through the air, water and soil, everyone is exposed to asbestos at some point during their lifetime. However, the majority of people do not develop symptoms or experience effects from this level of exposure. Rather, those who are exposed to asbestos regularly, usually because of a job that causes environmental contact, are most likely to develop mesothelioma or asbestosis.

For example, those who work in the asbestos mining and milling, shipbuilding trades and manufacturing industries as well as a variety of other trades are most likely to develop problems caused by asbestos. Although government regulations and interventions have mitigated the risks of asbestos exposure, many workers are still harmed by its effects every year.

Contact an attorney

Those who develop health problems as a result of asbestos exposure may have difficulties financially, mentally and physically on a long-term basis. Workers in North Carolina affected by asbestos should reach out to an attorney in their area who can help them assert their legal rights.