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Is asbestos still a health hazard?

Most people in North Carolina know that asbestos has caused countless cases of serious respiratory disease including lung cancer, mesothelioma and asbestosis, but many people also believe that the hazards of asbestos product exposure are a thing of the past. This belief is mistaken. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, an agency of the United States Department of Labor, has adopted extensive regulations to protect humans from what is very much a current hazard.

Asbestos is a health hazard because it "is a known human carcinogen and can cause chronic lung disease as well as lung and other cancers." Asbestos becomes a health hazard when asbestos fibers are released into the air and inhaled by persons in the vicinity. Many different activities can create this hazard, including the manufacturing of asbestos-containing products, brake and clutch repair, renovating or demolishing buildings, ship building and clean-up after natural disasters. Many asbestos-containing products were manufactured before the 1960s, but they still remain the environment. Some products made before 1981 are presumed to contain asbestos:

  • Thermal system insulation
  • Roofing and siding shingles
  • Vinyl floor tiles
  • Plaster, cement, putties and caulk
  • Ceiling tiles and spray-on coatings
  • Industrial pipe wrapping
  • Heat-resistant textiles
  • Automobile brake linings and clutch pad

OSHA has promulgated extensive regulations intended to minimize the risk of asbestos product exposure. The regulations are divided into three general categories: general industry, shipyards and construction. Employers are also required to post notice to inform employees of the hazards of asbestos and to provide appropriate protective clothing and equipment.

Anyone who believes that he or she may have been exposed to asbestos fibers may wish to obtain a medical examination. If any asbestos-related disease is found, a consultation with an attorney who specializes in product liability claims against asbestos product manufacturers can provide a useful analysis of the case and an estimate of the likelihood of recovering damages for medical expenses, lost income and pain and suffering.

Source: United States Department of Labor, "OSHA Fact Sheet - Asbestos," accessed on Nov. 29, 2016

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