It's jarring to think about it now, but there was a time in the not-too-distant past where asbestos was an integral part to the structure of a building. The material had so many desirable traits: it was fire-resistant, it was strong, it was relatively cheap and it boasted a number of other favorable elements to building construction.
Like many character actors, you probably would recognize Ed Lauter's face almost immediately. Movie fans would likely recognize him from his recent appearance in "Trouble with the Curve." Science Fiction fans would likely recognize Lauter from a guest appearance on "Star Trek: The Next Generation." Commonly, people will remember him for his recurring role on "ER" as a fire department captain. According to the Internet Movie Database (IMDb.com), Lauter appeared in more than 200 different roles in a career that spanned more than 40 years. He would have turned 75 today.
For decades, companies put asbestos in products and claimed that these products were safe. Everything from household appliances to shipbuilding materials commonly contained asbestos. It was touted as a safe and cheap material, even after it was discovered that inhaling or ingesting asbestos could, in fact, cause cancer.
When we read about the victims of asbestos exposure, we may notice that many of them are older, retired and perhaps enjoying time with their grandchildren or even great grandchildren. This is because people who developed asbestos-related illnesses often did so after working at companies for many years where asbestos was present, and it can take decades for people to be diagnosed with mesothelioma or other asbestos-related diseases. By the time a person learns that he or she has developed a terminal illness, it may be 50 years after they were exposed.
Illnesses that are linked to asbestos exposure are not developed overnight. Often times, victims of mesothelioma, asbestosis and other lung cancers have been exposed to asbestos for many years, at different locations and because of the negligence of multiple parties. And even after toxic exposure levels have been reached, a person may not know they have developed these illnesses until decades later.
Victims of an asbestos-related disease no doubt experience some very difficult and trying emotions from the moment they are diagnoses. They are often angry, confused, sad, frightened and often determined to hold the party responsible for their illness accountable.
Exposure to asbestos has long been known to cause various types of cancer, specifically mesothelioma. People who breathe in the airborne fibers can develop serious illnesses that are ultimately fatal. Mesothelioma, asbestosis and lung cancer can be devastating for victims to cope with, and one of the first questions people may have is how and when they were exposed to such a deadly substance without knowing it.
Workers in any industry have the right to expect that they will be working in safe conditions and given access to protective equipment when appropriate. Job sites should not be places where a person's life is needlessly in danger. But too many employees work on job sites where asbestos is present and this could be a very real threat to their health.
People in North Carolina may be aware that Sept. 26 was Mesothelioma Awareness Day. While it is crucial to highlight awareness efforts and review the causes of and solutions to mesothelioma, most people affected by this terrible disease would agree that one day is not enough.
Asbestos has long been identified as a carcinogen. That means that exposure to the toxic substance can cause cancers such as mesothelioma, which is an aggressive and fatal disease. Even though people have known for decades that asbestos exposure can be toxic, many people went to work every day without being properly protected. Those who worked in shipyards, on construction sites and on railroads were among those exposed to asbestos on a regular basis.