The term “asbestos” refers to a group of minerals that naturally occur in nature. Asbestos fibers contain atoms of silicone and oxygen in their molecular structure. These fibers can be separated into threads that are heat-, fire- and chemical-resistant and do not conduct electricity.
Those traits once made asbestos very popular in thousands of building and household products, including use as insulation. The widespread use created a problem: Asbestos fibers can cause mesothelioma, a cancer of the mesothelial (surrounding) linings of the lungs, abdomen or heart.
Millions of Americans are exposed to asbestos every day because of the fiber’s presence in many workplaces, buildings, homes and household products. Hundreds of thousands of people have died from asbestos exposure. Each year, about 3,000 people in the U.S. die from mesothelioma.
Asbestos Minerals Fall Into Two Groups
According to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), asbestos minerals are generally divided into two groups – amphibole and serpentine.
- Amphibole. Amphibole asbestos includes minerals such as actinolite, tremolite, anthophyllite, crocidolite and amosite. These minerals have straight, needle-like fibers that are brittle but are somewhat limited in their ability to be fabricated.
- Serpentine. Serpentine asbestos includes the mineral chrysotile, which has long, curly fibers that can be woven. It is chrysotile asbestos that is used in 95% of commercial applications in the United States and is most commonly linked to mesothelioma, asbestosis and other asbestos-related diseases.
Widespread Asbestos Use
Although asbestos has been mined in the United States and Canada since the late 1800s, its popularity increased during World War II as an insulator used in the shipbuilding industry to insulate boilers, steam pipes and hot water pipes.
Other industries quickly realized the supposed benefits of asbestos, and it became a staple in the automotive industry to make brake pads and clutch disks and in the construction industry as a home and building insulator. It was also used to strengthen cement and plastic; fabricate roofing, ceilings, flooring tiles and paints; and was commonly used in many household and garden products.
Even as the use of asbestos spread, manufacturers were already aware that the product caused fatal diseases, including asbestosis and mesothelioma.
Prolonged Asbestos Dormancy Period
Asbestos-related diseases such as mesothelioma and asbestosis can have a very long dormancy period. That is a time when the symptoms do not show up. In some cases, asbestos injury symptoms don’t materialize until 50 years after exposure. Equally troublesome is that many of those symptoms, such as coughing, shortness of breath and weight loss, are often misdiagnosed as these initial symptoms can relate to a variety of illnesses.
Sadly, many asbestos injury victims don’t discover that they have an asbestos-related cancer until the disease is in its latter stages.
Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard P.C. offers a free, no-obligation evaluation of mesothelioma claims in Chicago and throughout Illinois. You will not pay for our legal services unless we obtain compensation for you and your family. Contact us toll free at 888-615-8752 or use our free online contact form.