Roofing shingles, vinyl floor tiles, and cement board are three products commonly used in home construction. These products have something else in common – they may contain asbestos.
Asbestos is a natural mineral fiber that’s resilient and fire-resistant. Companies that make construction materials may add asbestos to their products to make them more resilient. Asbestos, when encased in a product, is usually harmless. But people who work with or near asbestos have a risk of developing asbestos-related cancer.
In manufacturing operations, on construction sites, and in automotive shops, materials that contain asbestos might be sawed, sanded, ground, or cut, causing tiny asbestos fibers to become airborne. People in the area may inhale those fibers without knowing it, and most cases of asbestos-related cancer occur decades after initial exposure.
The Environmental Protection Agency issued its first asbestos ban in 1973, when it outlawed asbestos in spray-applied fireproofing and insulating materials. It issued three additional use-specific bans in the 1970s, eventually outlawing nearly all asbestos-containing products in 1989. But in 1991, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals vacated the ban, and most products containing asbestos became legal once again.
These are some products that may contain asbestos (and this list is not comprehensive):
- Pipeline wrap
- Disk brake pads
- Drum brake linings
- Brake blocks
- Clutch facings
- Automatic transmission components
The Link Between Asbestos and Cancer
Asbestos exposure can cause a lung disease called asbestosis and mesothelioma, an aggressive and often fatal form of cancer. Because these illnesses may cause no symptoms until decades after exposure, they often progress to a stage where they are resistant to treatment.
Some people may develop asbestos-related cancer, even if they’ve had very little exposure to asbestos. In some cases, people who have never worked with asbestosis develop mesothelioma, because a member of their household worked with asbestos and inadvertently contaminated the home (fibers may stick to clothing and shoes).
Companies that know their workers are exposed to asbestos are doing a better job at keeping workers safe, thanks to federal regulations that require the use of safety equipment and protocols. But there are still employers who don’t care about providing protective equipment to workers.
Chinese Manufacturing and Asbestos
In 2010, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists reported that China was facing an “epidemic” of mesothelioma, due to the widespread use of asbestos in manufacturing, and failing to protect workers from exposure. In a 2008 visit to a Chinese manufacturing workshop, one journalist found that of eight workers who had chest X-rays, five had visible lung abnormalities.
The United States imports numerous products from China. In 2015, asbestos was discovered in crayons and a children’s toy fingerprinting kit imported from China. The fingerprinting kits contained a powder, and Dr. Jerry Paulson, former chairman of the American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Environmental Health, told CNN, “Powders make this material much more available to the lung, where asbestos does its damage.”
If you think you have been sickened by asbestos, talk to the attorneys at the Austin, TX-based Evans Law Firm. As personal injury attorneys with years of experience, we help the people of Texas put their lives back on track. We offer small law firm attention with big law firm results. Call today at (855) 414-1012 or fill out this online contact form to find out how we can help you.