Asbestos is a dangerous toxic substance that is known to cause cancer. Despite the known dangers, it was used abundantly for a long period of time in various industries during the 20th century. To this day, asbestos can still be imported into the U.S. and is still used in various products.
Of course when we’re talking something so dangerous, there’s no such thing as a safe “small amount of exposure.” That’s why we’re advocates for a full ban on asbestos in the U.S., something that every other industrialized, Western country has been able to do outside of Canada (a huge asbestos exporter).
In North America, asbestos exposure is the only generally accepted cause of mesothelioma, a rare cancer (stos exapproximately 3,000 people are diagnosed a year in the U.S.) that has no long-term cure. Often times, it will take patients months to determine if the trust cause of their symptoms because of how rare the cancer is and how difficult it can be to be diagnosed — to say nothing of how unfamiliar your everyday oncologist may be at dealing with mesothelioma treatment. By the time many patients are finally diagnosed with mesothelioma, they may find that they only have a few years of life expectancy.
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has a great report on asbestos today.
- Typically, individuals are exposed to asbestos in either first or second-hand scenarios. First-hand exposures involve people who were exposed to asbestos in their work or their home because they worked with asbestos-containing products, or they worked in the immediate vicinity of asbestos-containing products.
- People exposed to asbestos firsthand, usually on the job, generally have a higher chance of developing mesothelioma. It is when asbestos becomes airborne that it is the most dangerous, because it can then find its way into our lungs, where it causes damage by scarring the cells of our lungs, or it can get into our cells themselves and cause damage that then results in cancer. On the other hand, second-hand exposure to asbestos often involves people who either come into contact with individuals who were exposed to asbestos first-hand, such as spouses who washed their loved one’s laundry after they worked around asbestos, or even people who lived near industrial sources of asbestos. We have worked with clients who remember years of washing the dust particles off their loved ones’ clothes. The whole time, they were unknowingly exposing themselves to a horrible, deadly carcinogen.
- Scientific studies have identified numerous occupations that have regular exposure to asbestos and thus include a high risk of asbestos disease. These trades include jobs in the: Army, Navy, Residential and Commercial Construction, Electricians, Carpenters, Shipbuilding, Car Mechanics, Petrochemical Workers, Railroad Workers, Plumbers and Steel Workers. Also, there are other, harder-to-identify instances in which people may be exposed, including: Dentistry, Bakers, Jewelers, Decorators and even School Teachers.
There’s no such thing as a safe amount of exposure to asbestos.
- In addition, adults who develop mesothelioma may have been exposed to asbestos as children, from second-hand exposure when one of their parents unwittingly brought asbestos home from the workplace on their clothes, their hair or even via the family car. Children are particularly at risk for dangerous exposures to carcinogens because of their higher vulnerability to dangerous substances. Unfortunately, there were plenty of points of exposure that then-children could have encountered: from cars to asbestos on a parent’s clothing to exposure through household renovation projects involving window caulking, joint compound and floor tile.
- Asbestos is often found in homes built before the mid-1970s. If you suspect your home has asbestos, please DO NOT attempt to remove the asbestos yourself. Only a trained asbestos removal expert is qualified to remove the asbestos in a way that minimizes you and your family’s exposure. The best thing you can do if you suspect asbestos in your home is to leave the asbestos alone. Asbestos is at its absolute most dangerous when it becomes airborne.