In as many as 35 million homes, businesses, and schools across the United States, attics are blanketed in a layer of vermiculite insulation that may contain deadly tremolite asbestos fibers. When disturbed, the dust (containing microscopic fish-hooked shards) wafts into the air and is inhaled, becoming imbedded in the lungs and abdomens of whoever happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Those fibers then become the seed for the development of mesothelioma and asbestosis.
W. R. Grace Company manufactured Zonolite Attic Insulation from the vermiculite it mined between 1925 and 1985. The asbestos is naturally occurring in the mine, not an additive, and the company claims that risk of exposure is minimal. In a highly criticized move, the White House supported that claim by blocking an alert the Environmental Protection Agency intended to issue in 2003 declaring Zonolite a public health emergency.
Testing has supported that even minor disruptions to the loose insulation material create airborne dust particles that carry asbestos fibers. Even one exposure is enough to later result in mesothelioma, lung cancer, or asbestosis. Repeated exposures, by those living and working in an environment where the material is frequently disturbed by repair work, multiplies the risk. Because of the failure of the U. S. government to allow public notification, many people are unaware of the risk and may continue to work around the Zonolite without taking necessary precautions.
Asbestos related illnesses, such as the fast moving lung cancer mesothelioma and asbestosis, typically take up to 40 years before recognizable symptoms occur. This contributes to the difficulties in minimizing exposure. Additionally, the medical community would advise patients with known asbestos exposures that smoking multiplies the risk of contracting an asbestos related disease. If people don’t know that they have been exposed, they are not likely to be able to work toward minimizing future damage.
If asbestos attic insulation is suspected to be present, it should not be disturbed and all possible precautions should be taken to minimize exposure. Children should not be allowed to play in attics that contain this material, and boxes should be moved carefully. Cracks or holes in the ceiling or walls below an insulated area should be promptly sealed. When remodeling, it is important to hire a certified asbestos remediation company to test for the presence of asbestos, and arrange for removal in a manner that will prevent contamination of the surrounding air.
Once embedded in the lungs or abdomen, tremolite asbestos fibers are permanent. If you believe you have been exposed and are possibly becoming ill from contact with Zonolite Attic Insulation, you should contact an experienced attorney as soon as possible. The W. R. Grace Company has settled in hundreds of claims against them for damages as a result of their manufacture and distribution of asbestos contaminated Zonolite Attic Insulation.
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