Asbestos: A Deadly Environmental & Health Hazard

Asbestos is a term used for some naturally occurring minerals that form long thin fibers and fiber bundles on crystallization. Most commonly found group is the serpentine group that includes Chrysotile (white asbestos). It is also the most frequently mined form of Asbestos. Another very important asbestos group is known as the amphiboles, which includes Crocidolite (blue asbestos) and Amosite (brown asbestos). The asbestos fibers have high tensile strength, and chemical, electrical and heat resistance properties and so are extremely useful as a building/insulation material. Asbestos has been used extensively all over the world.

Asbestos: General Information

Although Asbestos is a hazardous material, it poses a health risk only if the Asbestos fibers become airborne and subsequently inhaled. Therefore, most Asbestos materials pose little health risk unless they are disturbed in a way that allows the fibers to be released into the atmosphere. Inhalation of asbestos fibers can lead to serious diseases such as lung cancer, Mesothelioma (a cancer of the lining of the lungs or lower digestive tract) and asbestosis (a chronic fibrosis of the lungs).

Many industries used Asbestos extensively in the past, exposing their workers to this deadly materials. As a result, many new cases of Asbestos caused ailments are occurring now. However, the fact that Asbestos was also installed in many buildings means that a wider range of people still have the potential to be exposed particularly building and maintenance workers. For this reason, the latest revision of the Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations introduces (from May 2004) a new responsibility on those responsible for non-domestic premises to manage the asbestos contained in them.

Asbestos Caused Diseases

Mesothelioma is a cancer of the pleural and peritoneal lining. It exclusively related to asbestos exposure. By the time it is diagnosed, it is usually fatal. Mesothelioma has a long latency period (time between exposure and onset of disease) of at least 15 years and sometimes as long as 60 years.

Asbestosis is a scarring of the lung tissue. This scarring impairs the elasticity of the lung and hampers its ability to exchange gases. This leads to inadequate oxygen intake to the blood. Asbestosis restricts breathing leading to decreased lung volume and increased resistance in the airways. It is a slowly progressive disease with a latency period of 15 to 30 years.

Lung Cancer is a malignant tumor of the bronchi covering. The tumor grows through surrounding tissue, invading and often obstructing air passages. Again, the disease has a long latency period of at least 20 years.

The victims of all these asbestos related diseases are eligible to file lawsuits for compensation against the persons and organizations responsible for causing asbestos exposure. They can take the help of mesothelioma and asbestos attorneys to fight their compensation claims.

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