Asbestos was used extensively before 1980 as a cheap and effective way to fireproof materials and improve their tensile strength. Even though the EPA has banned the use of asbestos, the substance can still be found in many buildings today. If you work in a building that was made before 1980, there is a significant likelihood that you are working near asbestos containing materials (ACMs). One construction material that was known to contain asbestos is drywall and tacking material (mud).
Drywall Asbestos: A Ticking Bomb
Asbestos was mined in most of the 19th century, and is still processed in some countries today. Microscopic fibers that erupt from asbestos when it’s disturbed are breathed in by workers who usually don’t realize the danger they are in. These fibers can then be lodged in a person’s lungs, and can even spread to other parts of the body. Asbestos destroys nearby cells and can lead to hardening of the lungs, scar tissue and cancer.
Asbestos causes severe illness over time. This means that you could be working with asbestos containing materials for years without realizing that you may have contracted a horrible disease that will shorten your lifespan. It can take decades for mesothelioma or asbestosis to produce symptoms, which include:
- Persistent cough
- Chest and abdominal pain
- Muscle weakness
- Shortness of breath
Asbestos is not dangerous if it is not disturbed, but this does not mean undamaged asbestos doesn’t pose risk. In cases of drywall and tacking material, all it takes is sanding a wall or peeling away some old wallpaper for asbestos to fill the air. Sometimes asbestos fibers can leak into the air without any human intervention at all. Drywall erodes after time, and when this erosion occurs asbestos can find its way into the air, which is why it is crucial to test any building that was built before 1980 for asbestos.
After Asbestos Exposure
If you have reasonable suspicion that you’ve been exposed to asbestos, seek medical attention from a doctor immediately. If you were exposed to asbestos while at work, inform your supervisor. Under OSHA regulations, your employer is responsible for a medical exam if there is reasonable suspicion you have been exposed to asbestos. Make sure to keep any records or documents that show you were exposed to asbestos, if anyone else knew asbestos was present when you were exposed, and if you’ve suffered any physical, monetary or psychological damage. It would be wise to keep a journal after asbestos exposure to log your thoughts and experiences, as this information may be useful when building your case if you subsequently contract mesothelioma.
Speak with an asbestos injury lawyer as soon as you can. Seeking compensation after being exposed to asbestos can be a complex and time-consuming process. Certain aspects of your case, such as who is responsible for your damages, how to prove your damages, and how much your damages are worth can only be answered by an experienced asbestos injury lawyer. Furthermore, your lawyer will investigate your case with a team of experts to assess how much compensation you are owed and who is responsible for your damages.
When engaging in a free consult with an asbestos injury lawyer, you should prepare questions beforehand such as:
- How much experience does the lawyer have in the field of asbestos injury cases?
- What are some examples of successful cases the lawyer has handles in the past?
- What types and amounts of compensation should you anticipate?
- Has this lawyer taken any asbestos cases to court, and have those cases been successful?
An experienced asbestos injury lawyer should have a steady history of representing asbestos injury clients, and shouldn’t be afraid to go to court for your rights if necessary.