Rates of Asbestos Exposure and Disease
The United States once produced millions of asbestos products. This mineral was virtually impervious to heat, fire, water, and sound, making it a powerful asset to thousands of industries.
Asbestos could be found in:
- Car parts
- Construction materials
- Military bases, ships, & vehicles
- Schools and offices
Over 27 million Americans had direct asbestos exposure in their workplace from 1949 to 1979, according to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR).
While asbestos was once thought of as a miracle due to its durability and other positive properties, it had an alarming drawback: it could cause people to develop serious health problems.
Asbestos exposure is notably linked to the deadly and incurable cancer mesothelioma.
The health effects of asbestos were not well-known until millions had already been exposed. This is because the manufacturers of asbestos-containing products knew the health risks but hid the facts to keep making money.
Anyone exposed to asbestos decades ago is now at risk of health problems since it takes 20-50 years for these diseases to develop and cause noticeable symptoms. Those constantly exposed to asbestos materials over long periods of time are more likely to develop asbestos-related diseases.
What Are the Types of Asbestos?
Asbestos is a generic name for two different groups of silicate minerals: serpentine and amphibole.
The vast majority of workers were exposed to serpentine (chrysotile) asbestos. Chrysotile asbestos (also called white asbestos from its natural color) appears as long and wavy strings under a microscope.
Chrysotile asbestos — the only type of asbestos in the serpentine group — accounts for 90% of asbestos used across America. Amphibole asbestos is the other group.
The amphibole asbestos group contains the other 5 types:
Amphibole fibers appear remarkably different than serpentine fibers under a microscope. These asbestos fibers look like shorter and bulkier crystals with sharp needle-like spikes protruding from the mass.
There is no safe form of asbestos despite these differences. Exposure to any type of asbestos can cause mesothelioma or other diseases.
Victims of asbestos-related diseases may be eligible to receive financial compensation to help them hold accountable the negligent companies that led to their illness.