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Frequently Asked Questions about Asbestos Exposure and Latency Periods

Asbestos is a silent hazard that has affected the lives of tens of thousands of men and women who have been exposed to the dangerous carcinogen (cancer-causing substance). Latency periods (the time between first exposure to asbestos and when symptoms of a serious illness such as mesothelioma cancer, asbestos-related lung cancer or asbestosis are first discovered) are usually several decades long, leaving those who worked with asbestos many years ago to only now face the devastating impact of an asbestos disease.

If you would like more information about asbestos disease and your legal rights, complete the form on this page for a free, confidential case review.  You can also request a free copy of our Asbestos Sourcebook.

Why is asbestos so dangerous?
What does “asbestos latency period” mean?
Are asbestos products still being made?
I think there is asbestos in my house. Where was it used in older homes?
What if I’ve been exposed to asbestos?
How Weitz & Luxenberg Can Help

Why is asbestos so dangerous?
Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral known for its fire retardant properties. Asbestos has been used in hundreds of materials handled by construction workers, shipbuilders, energy and utility workers, as well as in the gloves and other protective clothing used by workers in steel mills, glass factories and industries where molten hot materials are found.

When asbestos is disturbed, it produces dust that can be inhaled. Microscopic asbestos fibers have sharp, jagged edges that cause them to stick to lung tissues. Unlike other irritating or dangerous substances that are breathed in, asbestos cannot be expelled from the lungs by coughing or sneezing.

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What does "asbestos latency period" mean?
Every illness has a latency, or incubation period. For a common illness like a cold, most people begin to feel ill within a day or two after being exposed to the virus.

However, because microscopic asbestos fibers stick in the lungs after being inhaled, it can take 30 or more years before the first signs of an asbestos disease are discovered.

Asbestos causes healthy lung tissue to scar, leading to breathing impairments like pleural plaques or chronic diseases like asbestosis. It can also cause abnormal lung cells to develop, which can cause lung cancer tumors to grow or for more serious cancers like mesothelioma to develop.

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Are asbestos products still being made?
In July 1989, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a final ruling banning the production and use of most asbestos-containing materials. However, asbestos insulation is still used in many heat-generating consumer products such as hair dryers and toasters. Asbestos is also used in brake linings and clutches used in cars and trucks, as well as in the brakes on subways, streetcars and both commercial and passenger railroad cars.

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I think there is asbestos in my house. Where was it used in older homes?
Before the 1970s, asbestos products were likely used in the construction or renovation of houses and apartment buildings. While undisturbed asbestos is not dangerous, homeowners are still at risk for asbestos exposure.

Asbestos materials were used to insulate pipes in the basement, furnace rooms and attics of many older homes. Since asbestos removal and disposal must be done in accordance with state and federal regulations governing asbestos abatement, property owners should not attempt to remove these materials on their own. Instead, a certified asbestos contractor should be hired to perform the work.

However, many DIY weekend warriors may not be aware of other areas of the home where asbestos materials may be present. Before beginning any demolition, an asbestos contractor should test the area to determine if asbestos is present and oversee the removal of all asbestos-containing renovation debris.

In bathrooms and kitchens, asbestos was routinely used in the cements and mastics used to lay wall and floor tiles. Linoleum and other vinyl flooring materials (including some peel and stick tile squares) have asbestos in the tile material or glues. The material used in acoustic “popcorn” ceilings also contain asbestos, as do many sub flooring materials used in homes constructed without original hardwood floors.

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What if I’ve been exposed to asbestos?
If you or a loved one has been recently exposed to asbestos, it is important that you tell your doctor so it can be documented in your medical records. Healthcare professionals will be better able to monitor your health for any early signs of lung diseases. Should you eventually develop an asbestos-related disease, it can be diagnosed and treated at its earliest stages.

Smoking cigarettes or using other tobacco products can cause the risk of developing serious lung disease to increase significantly for those exposed to asbestos. Statistics from the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease (ATSDR) show that smokers at risk for asbestos disease are at a 50 to 84 percent higher risk to develop asbestos disease than non-smokers with similar asbestos exposure profiles.

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How Weitz & Luxenberg Can Help
If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with an asbestos-related illness, our lawyers may be able to help you seek compensation for injuries, pain and suffering, and to help pay medical costs.

Complete the form on this page for a free review of your potential case, and a Weitz & Luxenberg representative will contact you as soon as possible.

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