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Understanding asbestos: risk of exposure still exists

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Updated: 6/28/2012 3:44 pm
Asbestos exposure is a serious issue that affects millions of American workers. As a naturally occurring material - which is easily separated into microscopic fibers - asbestos is linked to a number of lung diseases, including mesothelioma cases. Unfortunately, too many people underestimate their risk of exposure. For decades, asbestos was celebrated because of its resistance to heat, fire, and chemicals. The so-called "magic mineral" was popular across a wide array of industries, including the automotive, ship-building and construction industries. And even though the U.S. government began regulating the use of asbestos as early as the 1970s, thousands of products used in the workplace and the home today still contain asbestos. The troubling reality is that while the use of asbestos in many products has been eliminated, it is still being imported and used in the U.S. As illustrated though this mesothelioma infographic, 1,730 metric tons of asbestos were imported in 2007. Many homes and buildings built before 1980 were constructed with products containing asbestos. The proper removal and disposal of asbestos from existing buildings and homes is an ongoing problem. When products containing asbestos are disturbed, tiny fibers can be released into the air. If inhaled, they may become trapped within the lungs, which can lead to a variety of health problems, including lung cancer, asbestosis and mesothelioma. While working and living around the material is enough to cause concern, it has also been shown that living with someone who is directly exposed to asbestos can place a person at risk. Referred to as "paraoccupational" exposure, microscopic asbestos fibers can be carried home on work clothes or other items, before becoming inhaled by members of the household. Asbestos-related diseases often do not present themselves until long after the exposure occurred. For instance, the symptoms of mesothelioma often do not appear until 20 to 40 years after exposure. If a mesothelioma diagnosis occurs, finding proper medical and legal help is critical. A mesothelioma medical specialist can help you explore treatment options for the rare condition, and an experienced mesothelioma lawyer can help you understand any legal options you may have regarding the companies who knowingly exposed you to the toxin. The key to prevention against asbestos exposure is proper education. If you work in an industry with a history of asbestos exposure, be sure to follow all OSHA-mandated regulations. If you're concerned about asbestos exposure at home, have your house inspected and contact a professional for expert help and guidance. About the Simmons Law Firm Michael Angelides is the managing partner of Simmons Browder Gianaris Angelides & Barnerd LLC and provided the information for this article. The asbestos lawyers at the Simmons firm represent victims of mesothelioma and asbestos-related diseases - like lung cancer - throughout the country and are a leading supporter of mesothelioma cancer research.
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