If someone claims to know what asbestos smells like, there is a good chance they are associating another smell with the toxic material: Some soil and rock, building construction materials, and some heat-resistant fabrics may contain asbestos, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). However, asbestos is currently regulated. It can still be found in these materials in public buildings like school and work offices—even drinking water and air in rare cases.
Many people could identify the scent of soil and rock, and possibly even insulation materials and fabrics, if they ever lived somewhere with asbestos in the construction. Asbestos is “naturally occurring, fibrous mineral,” with “no odor or taste” when airborne, according to the American Lung Association. If you suspect that you suffered exposure to asbestos, you may associate a smell with deteriorated or damaged insulation, flooring, or other groundwork.
About Asbestos Regulations
Once a popular choice for construction workforces around the world, asbestos is much more regulated today. It is a naturally occurring fiber that people worked with throughout the 20th century. According to the American Lung Association, “These fibers can remain suspended in the air and enter your lungs when you inhale,” but the Federal government did not begin to restrict the use of asbestos until the 1970s. In fact, you can still find asbestos in some older construction sites today, which poses a threat for demolition and renovation projects on older buildings. If you think you know what asbestos smells like, it could be from that natural association with older construction and aging buildings.
The most at-risk population for asbestos exposure is anyone who works with or around asbestos. The American Lung Association lists “miners, asbestos abatement workers, custodial and maintenance workers, and insulation workers” as people who are already at an increased risk for asbestos exposure.
The organization says that asbestos is usually not airborne until it is “cut, ripped, or sanded,” and expelled into the air. Nowadays, there are trained professionals to handle exposure to asbestos with protective gear. However, further research into asbestos exposure made it clear that secondhand exposure poses a threat to anyone who had regular contact with a person who worked with asbestos.
Asbestos Regulations in Schools
The Environmental Protection Agency sets standards for public and non-profit schools, which may operate in buildings that were constructed with asbestos. Protecting children and school staff from the hazards of decomposing building materials is required by law. All schools are required to “inspect their schools for asbestos-containing building material,” and “prepare management plans and to take action to prevent or reduce asbestos hazards.”
Asbestos Regulations in Building and Construction
When it comes to creating new buildings in place of older ones that were possibly built with asbestos materials, or renovating an older building that was built with asbestos, property owners have to make sure the working site is safe and operable for everyone. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Emissions Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants regulates building demolitions and renovations.
According to these standards, there is a maximum “threshold amount of asbestos or asbestos-containing material,” which “cannot emit visible emissions into the outside air.” Additionally, special precautions need to be taken to protect workers and the public from asbestos contamination upon clean-up efforts.
Complications of Asbestos Exposure
Asbestos exposure is a problem when it becomes airborne because the microscopic fibers can become lodged in the lung tissue, which can eventually lead to serious illnesses like mesothelioma and lung cancer. At least a century’s worth of workers in manual labor suffered exposure to asbestos fibers before it was considered a serious problem, and regulated by the EPA. Damage from asbestos exposure generally cannot be reversed, but in rare cases, patients may be eligible for a lung transplant.
Increased exposure to asbestos raises the risk of asbestosis, or lung disease caused by asbestos fibers. Consequently, people who develop asbestosis are more likely to develop even more severe illnesses like mesothelioma and lung cancer.
Mesothelioma is a type of cancer, primarily seen in people who suffered exposure unnecessarily to high amounts of asbestos. It begins in the linings of the lungs, heart, or stomach, and can spread to other parts of the body. All cases of mesothelioma will progress individually, with no certain cure rate. Treatments for mesothelioma include efforts to mitigate cancer cells like radiation, surgery, and removal of fluid from the chest.
Lung cancer differs from Mesothelioma, but it is even more serious. Lung cancer is considered the top cancer-related killer in the United States. Asbestos workers may be at an increased risk for lung cancer if they have a history of smoking or any lung-related health conditions. Like most other cancers, lung cancer will vary from person to person and can present itself on a number of different stages. Possible treatments for lung cancer include typical chemotherapy medications and radiations, surgery to remove the cancer, and immunotherapy.
As you might expect, the costs and complications of illness from asbestos are high. Not only are they a financial burden, they are physically, emotionally, and socially draining conditions.
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Getting Legal Help for Your Asbestos Exposure
If you or a loved one has a history of working with or around asbestos, you may be entitled to financial compensation from liable employers. You should not have to cover the bills for medical treatment, grief, loss, and suffering from asbestos-related illnesses.
When you work with the lawyers at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm, we can protect your rights to get you the compensation you deserve: (800) 794-0444