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The basics of the deadly carcinogen, asbestos

Most people in North Carolina are aware of the lethal connection between asbestos and cancer, but very few people know about the diseases caused by asbestos, how to obtain a proper diagnosis and medical treatment or how to commence a claim to recover damages for exposure to asbestos-containing products. In this post, we want to provide some answers to these questions.

Asbestos is actually a mineral made up of molecules of oxygen and silicon. Asbestos occurs in nature in several forms, but one form - chrysotile asbestos - the mineral is a long, curly fiber. These fibers can be woven, cut, stitched and glued to form a variety of durable, fabric-like products that were used to make pipe insulation, brake shoes, valve gaskets and similar products. The durability and superior insulating qualities of asbestos-containing products made them very popular for industrial uses.

As the use of asbestos became widespread in the 1940s, doctors began to observe a statistical correlation between asbestos exposure and lung diseases such as pleural mesothelioma (an especially aggressive form of cancer), asbestosis and other forms of lung cancer. Shortly after the end of World War II, research demonstrated that asbestos exposure was almost the only cause of mesothelioma and that it was the likely cause of other forms of lung cancer. As the health hazards of asbestos product exposure became well known, government agencies began to limit its use and manufacture, and some industries voluntarily stopped using the mineral. Nevertheless, a great many people were exposed to asbestos during the period 1940 - 1970, and many of them contracted one or more of the asbestos-related diseases. A large percentage of this group died from their disease.

In the last several decades, attorneys all across the county have been recovering damages on behalf of their clients from companies who mined, fabricated or used asbestos. Even today, persons are exposed to asbestos in a number of industries, including ship building, heat insulation and the manufacture and installation of automotive brake gaskets. Asbestos is still a serious health risk, and persons who have a high risk of exposure should seek a competent medical diagnosis. If such a diagnosis finds the existence of an asbestos-caused disease, a consultation with an attorney who specializes in such claims may be appropriate.

Source: National Cancer Institute Fact Sheet, "Asbestos Exposure and Cancer Risk," accessed on Sept. 28, 2015

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