Asbestos is a naturally occurring fiber composed of six different minerals. Due to its favorable heat and chemical resistance qualities, in addition to its durability, it has historically been widely used in a number of industrial and consumer products. These include the following:
- Heat-resistant fabrics
- Roofing materials
- Floor and ceiling tiles
- Car parts
Asbestos particles are incredibly fine and can become airborne. When inhaled or ingested, they can become lodged in the lining of the lungs or other cavity tissues, and after enough exposure, can cause a variety of serious illnesses.
Most often, asbestos exposure is associated with industrial occupations in the construction or automobile industries. However, non-occupational asbestos exposure is also fairly prevalent, and can occur in households, schools, and other unexpected locations. Family members of workers who are regularly exposed to asbestos may also develop asbestos-related diseases since workers can track asbestos fibers into the home on their hair, skin, shoes, and clothing. In addition, those living near factories or refineries that process asbestos are at risk of inhaling airborne fibers.
Asbestos exposure becomes significantly more risky when a person is repeatedly exposed to large amounts. However, while it is commonly believed that non-occupational exposure carries less risk, even small doses of asbestos can lead to health problems. Non-occupational exposure can cause the same illnesses as occupational asbestos exposure, such as:
- Lung cancer
- Larynx cancer
- Colon cancer
- Esophageal cancer
- Asbestos-related pleural diseases
- Mesothelioma—a rare and aggressive form of cancer
Many occupations carrying a risk of asbestos exposure are closely regulated, and employers are responsible for reducing the risk as much as possible. While there are few protections available when it comes to non-occupational exposure, victims can still collect economic damages from those responsible for their exposure.
If you or someone you know is suffering from an illness believed to be the result of non-occupational asbestos exposure, you may be able to take action. Speak with a Philadelphia asbestos lawyer to learn more about your options.