Directly handling or working with materials containing asbestos can lead to significant skin exposure. This exposure can result in negative health effects, such as cancer and other diseases. Exposure to asbestos can occur either through skin absorption or more commonly, through inhaling or swallowing fibers that have detached from the skin. Asbestos fibers also can lodge in the exposed skin of workers, a phenomenon that typically results in skin irritation, corns, or calluses. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), any type of skin exposure creates a risk of asbestos fibers entering the body and causing severe illness.
When workers use proper personal protective equipment (PPE), as they do at present, skin contact is no longer a major type of asbestos exposure pathway. However, asbestos fibers still may adhere to PPE, clothing, and other equipment, which can later cause skin exposure or inhalation of asbestos by workers.
Asbestos consists of a group of naturally occurring fibrous minerals that previously existed and still do exist in some products. Manufacturers often used asbestos because it is a very strong and flexible material that is resistant to heat and chemicals. Some examples of common products that currently contain or historically contained asbestos include roof shingles, insulation, various automobile part linings, and water supply lines.
How Asbestos Exposure to Skin Occurs
The CDC reports that specific types of product usage, demolition work, or building maintenance that involves materials containing asbestos often lead to asbestos fibers becoming airborne. This situation occurs when workers or machines disturb the asbestos-laden materials in a way that releases asbestos fibers into the air.
However, naturally-occurring asbestos fibers also may be present in the air when some forms of mining take place. The mining process can release the minerals from the ground into the air.
Asbestos fibers do not evaporate in air or water, but they remain completely intact. They can remain present in the air for long periods and may travel long distances by air or water before settling in a certain location. Therefore, workers who suffer exposure to airborne asbestos fibers can have skin contact with asbestos fibers or, more commonly, inhale the asbestos fibers if they detach from their skin.
Not only can workers collect asbestos fibers on their skin, but they also can land on their clothing and equipment. Asbestos on clothing and equipment can lead to worker exposure, either through skin absorption or inhalation of asbestos fibers. In some cases, the asbestos fibers can dislodge and penetrate clothing to reach the skin.
Furthermore, if workers return to other work areas or their homes in clothing or with equipment that contains asbestos fibers, secondary exposure can occur. In other words, other people living in the same household as the workers could suffer asbestos exposure through contact with their skin or the air that they breathe, as well as co-workers in other areas of the workplace. Secondary exposure might occur, for example, if a family member routinely washes clothing that the worker wore while handling asbestos.
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Results of Asbestos Exposure
The World Health Organization (WHO) determined that all forms of asbestos are human carcinogens. Exposure to asbestos is harmful to the skin, lungs, and other affected organs. Nonetheless, about 125 million people have asbestos exposure at their workplaces worldwide. Many people also have asbestos materials present in their homes.
Exposure to asbestos, according to the WHO, can result in various forms of cancer and other diseases, including asbestosis, or fibrosis of the lungs. Asbestos exposure combined with exposure to tobacco smoke also increases the risk of developing asbestos-related cancers and diseases.
In many cases, years or even decades go by before these diseases develop, and illnesses such as mesothelioma and lung cancer often are incurable. The WHO estimates that up to half of all occupational deaths in the world are due to asbestos exposure. Likewise, several hundred thousand deaths occur worldwide each year that are attributable to asbestos.
Get Legal Help with Your Claim for Asbestos-Related Illnesses
If you or a loved one suffered exposure to asbestos in your home or workplace and developed related illnesses, you may have a legal claim. You could be eligible for compensation from the companies who are responsible for your exposure. Not only can you seek compensation for your injuries and related losses, but you also can hold these companies accountable for their actions in allowing your asbestos exposure.
National and global public health agencies are clear that asbestos exposure, whether at work or home, can lead to negative health effects. Asbestos is harmful to skin, lungs, and other bodily organs when exposure occurs, leading to cancer and other deadly diseases. In this situation, the attorneys at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm can help. Call (800) 217-6099 to learn more about your potential options for legal relief for asbestos-related injuries.