The Early Years of Asbestos
The value of asbestos has been known for thousands of years, but it became more popular in the 1900s. Because the fibers were plentiful and affordable, asbestos was used by a number of U.S. industries, particularly during WWII and up to the ’60s and ’70s. The fibers were used in textiles because they were flexible and easy to weave into cloth. Also, asbestos made the cloth fire-resistant, so firefighters, soldiers and even children wore these fabrics to keep them safe.
The average American family used dozens of asbestos products. Even cigarette filters and curlers contained asbestos. Pots and pans often contained asbestos as well, so the family dinner was cooked in asbestos materials. At Christmas time, families celebrated by decorating their trees with asbestos-containing artificial snow. In the morning, they got into cars whose brake linings depended on asbestos to function properly. Every day, Americans lived surrounded by asbestos and were happy with the convenience these products provided them.
The dangers of asbestos were not widely acknowledged until shipyard workers who had handled huge amounts of insulation during WWII started falling ill. By the 1970s, a health care nightmare had blossomed, and the Environmental Protection Agency stepped in, seriously limiting the use of asbestos. These restrictions were loosened in 1990, but the American populace had little interest in using asbestos at that time, choosing products that did not contain the mineral instead. Many manufacturers made the financial decision to stop their use of asbestos due to lack of market demand.
Asbestos is still in many buildings, particularly those constructed before 2000. For those who want to eliminate asbestos from their homes or businesses, hiring a professional is advised. Removing asbestos means releasing the fibers into the air, and workers and residents may inhale them. Free-floating asbestos fibers are what pose the danger to humans. Asbestos that is contained and not friable, or easily crumbled, is not, in general, a problem. For instance, asbestos used to strengthen concrete should not, as a general rule, endanger anyone unless the concrete begins to degrade.
Unfortunately, old asbestos insulation allows fibers to easily escape, so workers and residents breathe it in if they are not properly protected. While it stays in the walls of a home, the danger is contained for homeowners, but if they remove the insulation or live with exposed insulation in the attic or garage, family members inhale the fibers. Building owners need to be aware of areas in their properties that contain asbestos and either have the asbestos removed or the problem repaired.
Asbestos-related illnesses continue to wreak havoc on the American public, even though asbestos levels have been regulated to some degree in the United States. Other parts of the world are still exposed to high levels of asbestos in the workplace. Unfortunately, older buildings in this country are still a hazard for workers, particularly when renovations are done without the proper precautions being taken by workers.
Have you or has anyone you know been exposed to Asbestos?
People who have been exposed and later developed asbestosis, lung cancer or mesothelioma need a team comprised of medical and legal experts to fight on their behalf. At Nemeroff Law Firm, these patients will get the support, compassion and legal knowledge they need to live out their lives with dignity and hope.
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