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.
According to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), asbestos minerals are generally divided into two groups – amphibole and serpentine.
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.
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.
Asbestos was used in many industries and occupations over the past century because of its fire-retardant properties. However, most asbestos workers were not given masks, respirators or protective clothing to prevent asbestos inhalation. Those workers inhaled deadly asbestos fibers that led to mesothelioma, a cancer of the lining surrounding the lungs, heart and abdomen.
Mesothelioma injury lawsuits allege that asbestos manufacturers and suppliers knew that asbestos could cause mesothelioma, asbestosis and other lung cancers, but failed to warn the companies that used asbestos, the employees that worked with the fibers and others who were exposed to asbestos on a regular basis.
The most common industries which used asbestos were shipbuilding and repair and the automobile industry. However, anyone who worked with asbestos as an insulator, such as pipe fitters, construction workers, power plant workers and many others, may also have been exposed to asbestos fibers.
Workers in many occupations may also have been exposed to asbestos – some without ever knowing it. Here are just a few of the occupations where asbestos exposure may have occurred: aeronautical engineers, aircraft mechanics, auto mechanics, blacksmiths, boilermakers, brick and stone masons, building maintenance, bulldozer operators, cabinet makers, carpenters, crane operators, demolition and wrecking crews, draftsmen, drill press operators, drywall tapers, electric power linemen, electrical engineers, electricians, firefighters , foundry workers, freight and material handlers, furnace operators, heavy equipment mechanics, home inspectors, household appliance installers, HVAC workers, industrial engineers, iron workers, janitors, machinists, mechanics, masons, mechanical engineers, millwrights, miners, mixing operators, molders, painters, plasterers, railroad workers, road machine operators, sheet metal workers, stationary engineers, steamfitters, structural metal craftsmen, telephone repairmen, textile operators, tile setters, tool makers and welders.
If you have developed mesothelioma and want to know whether the disease is linked to a former job, turn to an Illinois law firm with a record of success and a team of skilled accident attorneys who know how to get results.
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 312-372-1227 or use our free online contact form.