What is Asbestos and What Are Exposure Symptoms?

By James Parker
/
September 13, 2022

Asbestos is a relatively obscure substance that many people will never have to interact with. Unfortunately, for those who do have a need to learn about it, asbestos is often the cause of a health complications or injury. In order to provide more information about asbestos, the ways exposure can occur, and the consequences of asbestos exposure, Attorney at Law has put together this short guide.

What is Asbestos?

Asbestos is a mineral family of silicon-based geological substances. Asbestos has been used throughout the world for its high-tensile strength, heat resistance, and anti-corrosive properties. There are six types of asbestos divided into two broad subgroups: amphibole and serpentine.

Amphibole asbestos is the subtype defined by two major factors: having perfect lines of separation, called cleavage by geologists, and fracturing in needle-like patterns. This type of asbestos family contains five types of asbestos:

  • Actinolite
  • Amosite
  • Anthophyllite
  • Crocidolite
  • Tremolite

Amphibole asbestos is most notorious for its alleged association with talc products. Since talc and asbestos form under similar circumstances in similar locations, there have been allegations that asbestos contamination has been found in talc products. There have been some instances, where the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has found asbestos in some talc products including hygiene items, makeup, and other cosmetics.

Serpentine asbestos, also called white asbestos, is the most common type of asbestos found in up to 95% of products that contain asbestos. Despite its ubiquity, there is only one type of asbestos that makes up the serpentine asbestos subgroup: chrysotile. Chrysotile saw an extensive amount of use in the period of time between World War II and the 1970s.

How Are People Exposed to Asbestos?

Because of its perceived usefulness, asbestos has been used in a wide variety of consumer products. The most common areas of usage are in manufacturing, construction, and manual industries. When asbestos-containing products are damaged, disturbed, or impacted, asbestos particles can be released into the air. Once it’s in the air, asbestos can enter the body, most often through inhalation.

There are different avenues of exposure to amphibole asbestos. This varies based on the type of amphibole asbestos that someone is exposed to.

People can be exposed to actinolite through cement, drywall, insulation, paint, or sealants. Workers in factories that produce these objects can also be exposed just by breathing.

While amosite asbestos is rarer, it is still found in chemical insulation, gaskets, fire protection, or tiles. Similarly, anthophyllite is also found in cement and insulation materials.

Crocidolite is less useful than other amphibole asbestos forms because it is less heat resistant. Despite that, it does still find its way into cement and floor tiles.

Finally, people may be exposed to tremolite through many of the common amphibole asbestos avenues. However, tremolite is the most famous amphibole asbestos mineral because of its discovery in cosmetic talc products including Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder.

Serpentine asbestos has many of the same uses as amphibole asbestos but is far more likely to be used than other asbestos types. Some common products that expose people to serpentine asbestos include:

  • Asphalt
  • Brake parts
  • Car clutches
  • Cement
  • Cloth textiles
  • Disk pads
  • Flooring
  • Gaskets
  • Plastic
  • Roofing shingles
  • Rubber

Additionally, chrysotile is used as a binding material in linoleum flooring.

Asbestos-Related Health Consequences

While asbestos was seen as an extremely useful material that saw widespread utilization, in the late 1970s, an increasing body of evidence began to show that asbestos is a carcinogen, or cancer-causing substance.

This discovery has contributed to the causal association between asbestos and the rare and aggressive cancer, mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is a cancer of the mesothelium, a protective lining of tissue that surrounds the lung cavity, the heart cavity, or the abdominal cavity.

The most common type of mesothelioma is pleural mesothelioma. This cancer occurs in either of the two mesothelium layers that cover the lungs and surround the pleural cavity. The frequency of this cancer occurs because of the pattern of asbestos particles gathering in the lungs. Those particles that gather in the lungs cause constant irritation and damage to the pleural membranes until cell damage causes DNA alterations that result in cancer development.

By comparison, the second most common type of mesothelioma is peritoneal mesothelioma. Peritoneal mesothelioma is a cancer of the abdominal lining. It is theorized that asbestos enters the peritoneum through the lymphatic or circulatory system. Once there, the asbestos embedded in the peritoneal cavity causes the irritation and damage that leads to peritoneal cancer.

Even if asbestos exposure does not result in cancer, there are still a number of asbestos-related conditions that can occur. These conditions include asbestos pleural disease, asbestosis, and pleural fibrosis.

The symptoms of asbestos exposure can take decades to appear due to the extremely long latency period of asbestos-related diseases. When they do appear, asbestos-related conditions will often present with symptoms associated with the lungs. This includes chest pains, difficulty breathing, crackling noises when breathing, or shortness of breath.

What to do After Exposure

If you have developed an asbestos-related disease, there are important steps that will need to be taken. First, you will need to find several specialists to help you manage your symptoms, combat the advancement of your conditions, and help extend your prognosis. These processes are stressful, potentially dangerous, and costly. However, there is something that you can do about that. 

If the asbestos exposure occurred in a residence, then the residents may be able to file a lawsuit against their landlord or property management company. If the asbestos exposure occurred in a professional or industrial setting due to inadequate protection, then you may be able to file a lawsuit against the company for failing to protect you.

The bottom line is that if you have been exposed to asbestos and have subsequently developed asbestos-related health conditions, you may be able to file a personal injury lawsuit to cover your medical and potential damages. In order to successfully file and prevail in your lawsuit, you will need the help of a Personal Injury attorney.

An experienced Personal Injury attorney can utilize legal expertise, trial tactics, and expert witnesses to achieve the best possible outcome for your case. The best place to find a Personal Injury attorney is with Attorney at Law.

At AAL, our nationwide network of attorneys can connect you with the best Personal Injury attorney in your area. Not only can AAL find you the Personal Injury attorney to help you achieve justice, but we can do so without costing you anything. AAL’s Personal Injury partners work on contingency. That means you pay nothing upfront and, if you don’t win, you never pay anything.

Don’t wait. Contact AAL today for a complimentary consultation and begin your journey to justice.

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