When the health hazards of exposure to asbestos fibers first intruded into the public consciousness in the 1960s, the victims were asbestos miners, millers and persons who worked for industries that manufactured asbestos products. The second wave of victims involved persons who installed asbestos-containing products such as insulation, boiler coverings, gaskets and brake linings. Now a third wave of asbestos-caused disease is threatening workers in North Carolina and elsewhere.
The threat comes from asbestos that has been in place for many years, even decades, and is now being removed to permit building renovation or demolition. The threat is not much of a surprise to persons who are experts in the field. While new consumption of asbestos products has declined by a thousandfold in the last thirty years, much asbestos remains in place in older buildings, heating systems and automotive brakes. When that asbestos is disturbed, it can cause the same illnesses – mesothelioma, asbestosis and other forms of lung cancer – as it did when it was being mined or used to manufacture asbestos-containing products.
The risk is especially severe because even small exposures can lead to mesothelioma. Many workers involved in removing asbestos become covered in asbestos dust. The United States Environmental Protection Agency has passed rules to limit the amount of exposure faced by such workers, but employers frequently avoid following these rules in order to reduce operating costs.
While mesothelioma normally takes about thirty years to produce noticeable symptoms, younger workers occasionally report symptoms as soon as 10 years after their initial exposure. The threat of asbestos exposure should be taken seriously. Anyone who experiences a chronic cough or difficulty breathing should consult a qualified physician for an examination, chest x-ray and diagnosis. If the findings are positive for mesothelioma or any other disease that is associated with asbestos, a consultation with an attorney who specializes in such cases can provide a helpful evaluation of the case and an estimate of the likelihood of recovering damages for lost income, medical expenses and pain and suffering.
Source: National Public Radio, America’s ‘Third Wave’ Of Asbestos Disease Upends Lives,” Jim Morris, Maryam Jameel, Dec. 17, 2015