TYPES OF ASBESTOS EXPOSURE
Exposure to asbestos can occur at work or in the home
September 13, 2010 - According to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease
Registry (ATSDR), the most common type of asbestos exposure is occupational
exposure, though individuals can also come in contact with asbestos in the home
or through contact with naturally occurring asbestos ore.
The primary pathways for these types of exposure incidents are through inhalation of airborne fibers or through bodily ingestion.
OCCUPATIONAL EXPOSURE is the most common form of asbestos exposure. Asbestos disease is responsible for the deaths of thousands of workers who developed asbestosis, lung cancer or mesothelioma.
Certain industries and trade jobs have placed workers at a particularly high risk for asbestos exposure. They include construction and shipbuilding, as well as manufacturing jobs that involved the production of asbestos-based products. The U.S. car industry is infamous for exposing workers to asbestos contained in brakes, clutches and other equipment.
The automobile industry
Automotive asbestos exposure occurs most frequently when unprotected mechanics work on a car’s brake system (which includes brake linings, brake pads and drum). Many brakes are still made with asbestos today, just in lesser quantities than in previous years. The problem is that over time, asbestos dust settles inside the drum. During repair or replacement work, an auto mechanic is required to remove and clean the brake drum, a work procedure that can emit toxic asbestos fibers into the air and surrounding work site. Thousands of car mechanics have died of asbestos diseases this way.
Prior to the 1980s and the enactment of EPA safety laws, construction workers were very likely to have been exposed to asbestos. Many asbestos-based building materials were used in public buildings and residential homes prior to 1980, and included wallboard, floor and ceiling tiles, and attic insulation, among others. Work activities like sawing or sanding asbestos-based wallboard, cutting floor or ceiling tiles to fit, and installing attic insulation releases asbestos dust and minute fibers into the air and ripe conditions for worker asbestos exposure.
Though many asbestos-containing construction products are no longer in use, they are still embedded in older buildings, making renovation and demolition work hazardous, even today. EPA regulations require that construction workers involved in remodeling or asbestos removal projects be provided with protective equipment.
The U.S. Navy used hundreds of asbestos-contaminated products in its vessels before 1970, which led to deadly asbestos exposure incidents among thousands of shipyard workers and wartime naval veterans. Asbestos is resistant to fire, heat, electricity and corrosion, properties that make it ideal for shipbuilding. Asbestos was generously used as insulation on ships’ boilers, steam pipes and many other places below deck to prevent fires at sea.
Unfortunately, asbestos fibers tended to dislodge from these products during daily nautical activities and over time. Toxic fibers became airborne in inadequately ventilated areas below deck, contributing to asbestos exposure among unsuspecting builders and seamen. Despite properties that lend themselves to shipbuilding, asbestos has killed more shipyard workers than it ever saved from fire.
HOME EXPOSURE can occur during construction or renovation activities that involve asbestos-based products manufactured before 1980. Vermiculite, a mineral mined in Libby, Montana from the early 1920s until 1990, was shipped to hundreds of locations throughout the United States. We now know that the vermiculite from Libby contained asbestos.
According to ATSDR, exposure to asbestos-containing vermiculite attic insulation has occurred in many households. For example, vermiculite attic insulation, found both in the attic between trusses and in between walls, also has the potential to contain asbestos. This insulation is a pebble-like, pour-in product and is usually light-brown or gold in color.
CONTACT WITH NATURALLY OCCURRING ASBESTOS is another type of asbestos exposure. Asbestos exists naturally at ground level in many locations throughout the United States, particularly in asbestos-plagued California, the No. 1 state in the country for asbestos-related mortalities.
According to California's Air Quality Management District, asbestos fibers occur naturally in the soil in 44 of California’s 58 counties. When disturbed by wind, landscaping, construction, or other forms of human activity, asbestos particles become airborne and present a health hazard to anyone living or working nearby.
Naturally occurring asbestos poses little threat to human health if left undisturbed.
PATHWAYS FOR ASBESTOS EXPOSURE
Inhalation. The primary pathway for the above types of asbestos exposure is inhalation, which frequently occurs in confined work-site areas like a construction site, inside an industrial plant, or below deck at a shipyard.
The body has extreme difficulty in expelling asbestos fibers that have been inhaled into the lungs. These sharp and microscopic fibers will imbed themselves in the lining of the lungs, abdomen, or heart and ferment there for years, sometimes decades, before diagnosable symptoms of mesothelioma, asbestosis, or lung cancer appear.
As a result of the long mesothelioma latency period, workers regularly exposed to asbestos decades ago are only now being diagnosed with fatal asbestos-related diseases.
Bodily ingestion is another asbestos exposure pathway. The most common method of ingestion is through drinking asbestos-tainted water. This type of exposure has been suggested to increase the risk of throat, stomach, and intestinal cancer.
If you have been diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease and seek free guidance on your eligibility to receive compensation for lost wages, medical bills and suffering, contact Weitz & Luxenberg today through the communication form presented here.