It is important to know why asbestos exposure is dangerous to people. Asbestos is not a single entity but is the generic name for mineral fibers that are found in nature. Asbestos has iron, calcium, aluminum, sodium, and magnesium fibers that are very strong and flexible.
The construction, shipbuilding, and automotive manufacturing industries used asbestos until the 1970s, when asbestos was found to be a carcinogen (causes cancer).
Some occupations have a high risk of asbestos exposure. If you work in these jobs, you have a higher risk of developing cancer.
Jobs That Expose You to Asbestos
Thanks to increased awareness about the link between asbestos and cancer, there are fewer occupations today that have a high risk of asbestos exposure.
However, there are occupations with a high risk of asbestos exposure today. According to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), these jobs include:
Older buildings are likely to contain asbestos. That is why construction workers have a higher risk of developing cancer as they repair, renovate, or remove asbestos. Asbestos is most dangerous when the material crumbles, deteriorates, or catches fire.
Burning asbestos creates asbestos dust that can settle into your lungs. This increases the risk of lung cancer and other lung-related diseases. Even with protective facial masks and oxygen tanks, firefighters are routinely exposed to potentially lethal levels of asbestos.
Like firefighters, people who work as paramedics and police officers are first to respond to disasters. That is why these occupations are considered high-risk for asbestos exposure. First responders to the World Trade Center disaster on Sept. 11 endured exposure to asbestos as they searched the rubble for survivors and during cleanup.
Office Workers Also Face Potential Risks from Asbestos
You do not have to work in one of the above occupations to be at risk for asbestos exposure. You are at risk for exposure if you work in an office where there is asbestos in the floor, pipes, or insulation.
Likewise, you and your family could be at risk for asbestos exposure if you live in an older home where the asbestos is crumbling or deteriorating.
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Why Asbestos Exposure Is Dangerous
You have a greater risk of developing lung cancer and other serious illnesses the longer you are exposed to asbestos. Asbestos dust and fibers can get stuck inside the tiny sacs in your lungs. This is dangerous because, over time, asbestos can irritate and scar your lung tissue.
Eventually, your lungs become stiff and can no longer expand and contract naturally, making it difficult for you to breathe.
Medical Conditions Associated with Asbestos Exposure
If you are in an occupation with a higher risk of asbestos exposure, you could develop a serious and potentially fatal disease.
According to the Mayo Clinic, the most common illnesses associated with asbestos exposure are:
- Lung cancer
- Malignant mesothelioma
Asbestosis is a chronic lung condition that cannot be cured, only treated. This condition also increases your risk of developing lung cancer. You are also at greater risk of developing malignant mesothelioma, a cancer of the tissue around the lung.
Symptoms of Asbestos Exposure
People who work in jobs with regular exposure to asbestos generally do not have symptoms right away. That is why there are many older, retired workers in other occupations, such as shipbuilding, who developed lung cancer or mesothelioma 10 or more years later.
Asbestosis is difficult to diagnose because it mimics other, less dangerous respiratory conditions.
The Mayo Clinic recommends that you see your doctor if you have symptoms that include:
- Shortness of breath or difficulty taking deep breaths
- Dry, persistent cough
- Loss of appetite
- Unintentional weight loss
- Fingertips and toes that start to appear clubbed (they look wider and rounder than normal)
- Pain or tightness in your chest
Your doctor may order imaging tests of your chest or lung function tests.
You Could Be Entitled to Compensation
Construction workers, firefighters, and first responders are supposed to have proper safety equipment to protect them from asbestos exposure.
If you work in a job with a high risk of asbestos exposure and you are concerned that your employer did not provide adequate equipment and training, you should talk to a lawyer.
A personal injury lawyer with Pintas & Mullins Law Firm will protect your rights and can help you recover compensation for medical bills, lost pay, pain and suffering, and possibly more.
Please call our firm today for a free case evaluation—we can help you recover compensation on a contingency basis with no upfront costs to you: (800) 794-0444.