Asbestos is a heat-resistant fibrous mineral that was commonly used in building material until it was banned in the 1970s over health concerns. Though extensive use of asbestos in building construction is no longer an issue, the risk of exposure is still very real. Undisturbed asbestos is not inherently dangerous, however, when the material is broken and produces dust the particles can be inhaled, which can cause lung damage. Prolonged exposure to asbestos can cause asbestosis and mesothelioma, as well as other types of cancer.
Construction workers who rehab or renovate older houses may be exposed to long-hidden asbestos dating back to before the ban went into effect. Demolition crews may unknowingly kick up asbestos dust and inhale it daily. Firefighters battling blazes in older buildings may inadvertently disturb asbestos sites, as they break down walls attempting to locate and contain the fire. Electricians and utility workers who open walls and ceilings to install wires and other equipment may encounter old asbestos as well.
Asbestos exposure can occur by touching the material, ingesting it, or inhaling particles of the abrasive dust. Touching asbestos may cause an itch or skin irritation, and ingesting the material may cause internal irritation, but inhaling asbestos can have more serious consequences. Inhaling asbestos can cause breathing trouble, including a crackling sound in the lungs. Other possible symptoms include swelling in the neck or face, and appetite or weight loss. Over time, repeated exposure to asbestos is known to cause cancer.
Despite the ban on using certain types of asbestos in building materials, other products containing asbestos are still in use to this day. For example, concrete mixed with asbestos is used to contain and protect fiber-optic cables. When those cables need repairs, accessing the worksite creates asbestos-laden dust. Other uses for asbestos include textiles, insulation, and car parts.
Some professionals, such as those hired to remove asbestos, knowingly work with the dangerous dust, but they do so with proper protection and employ safety techniques that keep them safe. If work must be done in spaces that contain asbestos, workers should be provided with the same level of training and protective gear used by asbestos removal professionals.
Productivity demands and cost-cutting priorities compel businesses to focus on profits over the health and safety concerns of their workforce. Cutting corners to save money can put workers at risk. When bosses turn a blind eye to the dangers their workers face in a workspace contaminated with asbestos, they should be held accountable. Businesses that sacrifice the health and safety of their workers should pay a price.
If you developed health complications due to asbestos exposure, the Philadelphia asbestos lawyers at Brookman, Rosenberg, Brown & Sandler can help. Contact us online or call us at 215-569-4000 to schedule a free consultation. Located in Philadelphia, we serve clients throughout New Jersey and Pennsylvania, including Delaware County, Chester County, and Philadelphia County.