Asbestosis, also known as Idiopathic Interstitial Pneumonitis and Pulmonary Fibrosis, is a fibrosis or scarring of the lung tissue. Asbestos is a serious threat to one’s health because it can cause severe forms of lung disease. One form of disease is asbestosis.
The lung is made of a delicate tissue which allows the blood to pick up oxygen and drop off carbon dioxide. Scarring of the lung tissue decreases the ability of the lung to exchange these gases. A person’s chances of developing a tumor or cancer of the lung is five times greater than normal if exposed to asbestos.
These naturally occurring fibers have been mined and used for about the last 100 years with peak use in the 1970’s. Of importance is the fact that the negative health effects associated with asbestos may take years to develop. Thus, workers exposed years ago and even people within close contact of workers (family members who may inhale asbestos fibers from worker’s clothing) may begin to encounter the symptoms of asbestos-related disease today.
Who is at risk?
Asbestosis is found in people who are chronically exposed to asbestos material. Those who are at the highest risk of developing asbestosis are the people who directly handle asbestos material at their job. This group includes:
- vehicle mechanics
- construction workers
- shipyard workers
- other workers in the building trades
A study conducted on Finnish asbestos workers who either worked construction for ten years or worked in shipyards for one year showed that 22% of the workers showed signs of asbestosis development.
A formal diagnosis of asbestosis should begin with a medical, occupational, environmental, and family history. Symptoms will often take over 30 years to appear after the exposure and rarely under 10 years. People with more concentrated and longer exposures often get the disease more quickly.
Most asbestos-related conditions will involve difficulty breathing (along with decreased pulmonary function), a dry cough, and dry rales (pronounced RAHLS, not rails) at the bottom of the lungs. Rales are wet, crackly lung noises heard on inspiration which indicate fluid in the air sacs of the lungs.
People with extreme cases of asbestosis will have right-sided heart failure and cyanosis. The exam should continue with chest x-rays, which, together with the history of exposure is the foundation of the diagnosis. Calcified plaque formation in the pleura of the lung and interstitial fibrosis formation are relatively specific markers for asbestos exposure. There will also be irregular and linear opacities especially in the lower lobes and occasionally rounded atelectasis (inability to fully expand the lungs).
Our Experience – Asbestos Litigation & Exposure Lawsuits
Why You Should Choose Schmidt & Clark, LLP
“Our law firm has substantial expertise in the highly specialized field of occupational Asbestos exposure litigation.”
There are many law firms in the United States that advertise their legal services for Asbestos lawsuits, however most of these law firms do not actually litigate them. You can contact our law firm with confidence in knowing that we have earned the nationwide respect and recognition from our peers for the successful representation of Asbestos exposure clients and their families.
If you or a loved one have been exposed to Asbestos and developed a form of Asbestos related cancer or other related disease, you should contact us immediately. You may be entitled to compensation and we can help.
What is Asbestos?
Asbestos is the name given to a number of naturally occurring minerals that have been used as ingredients in manufacturing products since the late 1800’s. Asbestos deposits have been mined extensively in Canada, South Africa, Australia, Russia and the United States. Once the asbestos is mined and/or used in the manufacturing process, tiny fibers are created. The fibers cause disease when breathed into the lungs.
There are several different types of asbestos. The following is a list of the different types of asbestos:
Of these six, the three most commonly used are chrysotile (white), amosite (brown/off-white) and crocidolite (blue).
All types of asbestos tend to break into very tiny fibers. These individual fibers are so small that many must be identified using a microscope. Because asbestos fibers are so small, once released into the air, they may stay suspended there for days.
Asbestos fibers are also virtually indestructible. They are highly resistant to chemicals and heat. Asbestos fibers are durable, flexible, strong and resistant to wear. Because asbestos has so many useful properties, it has been used in over 3,000 different products.
Usually the asbestos fibers are mixed with other materials to form a product. The asbestos fibers often served as a binder to keep the other materials in the product intact. Depending on the product, the amount of asbestos in asbestos-containing materials varied from 1%-100% by weight.
What was Asbestos used for?
Asbestos was widely used for many reasons. It resists fire and has good thermal, electrical and acoustical insulation properties. Its fibers are strong, but flexible, and resist corrosion. Asbestos has been used in a multitude of products, including:
- Pipe insulation and lagging
- Insulation on boilers, turbines and other heat-generating industrial equipment
- Fireproofing and acoustical sprays
- Brake pads, clutch pressure plates and other friction products
- Fireproof cloth and other textiles
- Wallboard, joint compound and wall texture
- Cement and cement piping
- Electrical wiring
- Floor tile and linoleum
How does Asbestos exposure occur?
Asbestos exposure occurs when asbestos fibers are inhaled. If an asbestos-containing product is left intact, then exposure to the asbestos fiber is less likely. However, if that asbestos-containing product is cut, sawed, mixed, drilled, buffed, vibrated, sanded or otherwise disturbed, this causes asbestos fibers to be released into the air. Because individual asbestos fibers are so tiny that they can only be seen with a microscope, they are very lightweight and stay in the air for a long time.
Friable asbestos is especially dangerous. The term friable means that the asbestos crumbles easily, releasing asbestos fibers into the breathable air. An example of friable asbestos is acoustical ceiling and wall spray.
Once inhaled, the asbestos fibers can cause many respiratory problems, including the development of mesothelioma. Asbestos fibers are very strong – too strong for the human body to break down.
Asbestos fibers can also be swallowed, lodging themselves in the digestive tract. This may also lead to disease.
Usually it takes at least 15 years from the time a person is exposed to asbestos until they develop mesothelioma. This is called the latent period.