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Asbestos is a naturally occurring, fibrous mineral found in the ground and mined all over the world. It is so small it can only be identified under a microscope. In the past, asbestos was added to various products such as insulation to increase fire resistant properties. Asbestos exposure, especially of an extended duration, has been linked to mesothelioma and other health problems, including lung cancer. Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer that affects cells in the lining of the chest and abdomen. The tissues in these areas are called the mesothelium, and they produce a lubricating fluid that allows the organs to move easily and without irritation or injury in the torso cavity.
Asbestos fibers attach themselves to the lining of the lungs or other parts of the respiratory tract and remain there indefinitely. Asbestos is most dangerous when it is airborne. The fibers are small and light and can stay afloat for a long time and can travel great distances from their source. Since asbestos fibers are microscopic and airborne, people can breathe in asbestos fibers for many years without realizing it. Workers in environments in which construction materials, especially insulation, are handled are at greatest risk. Starting in the 1940s, workers, unaware of the danger, regularly handled and were exposed to large amounts of asbestos, often for long durations. Trades that involved especially high levels of exposure included asbestos production related fields like mining, milling, asbestos tile manufacture, and the manufacture of products that used asbestos. Other industries with high levels of possible exposure included shipbuilding, construction, car repair, and any form of demolition. Today, worker's exposure to asbestos has been reduced due to government regulations. Still, however, demolition workers are at risk when they disturb antiquated materials that contain asbestos in older structures. It can take anywhere from 10 to 40 years for symptoms of an asbestos related disease to surface.
Critics have charged that asbestos manufacturers knew of the dangers of asbestos exposure many years before alerting the public of potential health risks. Despite the dangers associated with asbestos, the substance can still be found in thousands of products today. Because of its airborne mobility, its microscopic size and harmful properties, professional assistance is required to remove asbestos. There are professional abatement services that will remove asbestos from homes or other buildings. Asbestos is most harmful when the structure containing it is disturbed, releasing asbestos fibers into the air.
Some observers contend that asbestos product liability lawsuits have resulted in over $100 billion in claims and bankrupted over 100 companies.
Wayne Walker is president of CapTran, the leader in litigation financial services. http://www.captran.com
© 2005 Capital Transaction Group Inc
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