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Experts say health hazards from asbestos products persist

In the early 1970, the United States Environmental Protection Agency began banning the use of asbestos-containing products in products used in the construction industry. The ban has widened, but according to contemporary experts, the white mineral continues to cause serious and often fatal illnesses.

Scientists and physicians have long known that inhalation of asbestos fibers can cause chronic lung disease such asbestosis. Asbestos product exposure can also cause mesothelioma, an aggressive cancer that attacks the lungs and abdomen. A leading thoracic surgeon recently observed that "The vast majority of mesotheliomas are related to asbestos exposure." Mesothelioma is almost always fatal.

Despite the efforts of the EPA and other government agencies to restrict the use of asbestos, the mineral is still very much present in the environment. Before its health risks were fully appreciated, asbestos was widely used in the manufacture of pipe insulation, shipbuilding, flooring products and automotive brake linings. Buildings in which these products were used are still standing, and many are still in active use. Moreover, many older buildings are being demolished or renovated, and these processes cause the release of asbestos fibers that are easily inhaled by people who are in the vicinity of the release.

Asbestos experts are quick to caution people about working in older buildings built before 1970. Anyone who is concerned about the presence of asbestos should contact either the EPA or a state or municipal agency that is charged with responsibility for controlling asbestos exposure. Anyone who believes that he or she may have been exposed to asbestos fibers should consult a physician for an evaluation. If such an examination provides a positive diagnosis for a disease associated with asbestos, a consultation with an attorney who specializes in bringing claims for asbestos-caused damages can provide useful advice on the likelihood of recovering damages for medical expenses, lost income and pain and suffering.

Source: U.S News & World Report, "Asbestos Dangers Are Still Lurking," Michael O. Schroeder, Jan. 5, 2016

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