Attorney David Layton has been litigating asbestos cases for over 25 years. Here, he answers some of the most frequently asked questions he hears.
What is asbestos?
Asbestos is a toxic mineral fiber which was used in thermal insulation products such as pipe covering, block, insulating cement, sprayed fireproofing. It was also used in commercial and residential building products such as plasters and drywall joint sealing compounds. In fact, asbestos was used in hundreds of products found in commercial enterprises and industrial settings.
Where and in what products can I find asbestos?
In addition to the pipe covering, etc., mentioned above, asbestos was also used as a binder to strengthen products. It was used in gaskets and packing for high-temperature applications such as steam propulsion systems, boilers, generators in heavy industries such as steel plants, ship construction and repair and power plants. The EPA has published this complete list of products tha
Who is at risk for exposure?
The risk of exposure to products containing asbestos occurs during initial installation and subsequently during repair and removal. Asbestos exposure can occur directly to insulation workers as well as bystanders who are near the application or removal of asbestos-containing products (ACP’s). Even family members of tradespersons are at risk for carry-home dust on contaminated work clothes.
Is asbestos illegal?
Surprisingly not all asbestos-containing products (ACP’s) are banned. The current law prohibits the use of asbestos as an ingredient in products which historically did not contain asbestos. In 1973, sprayed fireproofing ACP’s were banned. In 1975, thermal insulation ACP’s, such as pipe covering, block and insulating cement products, were banned. Joint sealing compounds containing asbestos, typically used by homeowners, were banned in 1975, and similar commercial joint compound products were banned in 1976. However, in 1991, a court decision overturned/vacated the Environmental Protection Agency rule promulgated in 1989, which had the unfortunate effect overturning the ban for the majority of ACP’s.
What are some symptoms and diseases related to asbestos exposure?
The most serious of all asbestos-related diseases is malignant mesothelioma which is invariably a terminal illness. Asbestos exposure also creates a risk of developing lung cancer and certain other cancers like:
- Throat cancer
- Esophageal cancer
- Vocal cord carcinoma
- Colo/rectal cancer
- Stomach cancer
All of these can be fatal diseases. Severe non-malignant asbestosis or lung scarring can also be fatal.
Does simple exposure automatically mean health problems?
Incidental asbestos exposure does not portend the development of a future asbestos-related malignancy and probably will not lead to non-malignant asbestosis. However, there is no safe level of exposure or threshold below which mesothelioma could occur after a very long latency of 40 or 50 years after initial exposure. Because we live in and around areas where asbestos has been used for over 100 years, experts in asbestos-related disease only consider exposures in excess of background levels as a potential hazard.
What should I do if I think I or someone I love has been exposed?
If you, a family member or loved one has been exposed to asbestos, first and foremost, you should speak with your doctor. For information about your legal rights, call our asbestos attorneys today at (800) 674-9725 or reach out to us online. All consultations are with an attorney, free, and completely confidential.