American industry prospered for many decades by earning enormous profits using and selling products containing asbestos. And to be fair, many companies were initially unaware of the negative health consequences caused by exposure to the substance. Some companies, on the other hand, acted in a far more sinister manner, hiding their knowledge of the dangers of asbestos exposure from both employees and customers. Fortunately, the dangers of asbestos are now well-known, and important safeguards have been implemented to help protect those who are still exposed. In this article, we will discuss some common effects of long-term exposure to asbestos, along with symptoms.
Asbestos is a mineral, and in its natural state it is not considered to be dangerous. However, when it is disturbed, small fibers can become airborne and inhaled. Medical-science has clearly documented the connection between exposure to asbestos fibers and negative health effects. Generally, these adverse health consequences occur to people who have long-term exposure to high-level concentrations of the mineral. Naturally, this type of continuing exposure occurs most frequently to those who either work directly with asbestos; work with products containing asbestos; or work in locations containing asbestos.
Examples of at-risk industry workers include the following: longshoremen/shipbuilders; construction workers; demolition workers; firefighters; automobile workers and mechanics; asbestos miners; textile workers; insulation workers; drywall installers; and railroad workers. Additionally, family members of these workers can face a greater exposure to asbestos through their contact with the family member. More recently, concerns have developed for workers involved in rescue and cleanup following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. For those who suffer illness from exposure, consequences include pleural abnormalities, asbestosis, lung cancer, and mesothelioma.
Keep in mind that the negative effects from exposure to asbestos usually take years to occur – sometimes as few as 10 years, while in some cases it has taken as many as 40 years. Therefore, the exposure could have happened long ago. The following are common symptoms of asbestos-related disease:
- Dry, persistent cough
- Shortness of breath / breathing difficulty
- Clubbing of fingers and toes – (rounder and wider than normal)
- Tightness or pain in chest or lungs
- Abnormal weight loss and loss of appetite
- Throat pain
- Episodes of bronchitis or pneumonia
- Pain when inhaling, sometimes with a gurgling sound
- Coughing blood
If you are exhibiting any of the above symptoms and have a history of exposure to asbestos, it’s a good idea to have a doctor check you out as soon as possible. Depending on the symptoms exhibited, medical professionals have a number of diagnostic tools at their disposal. Doctors typically give a physical examination, followed by chest x-rays and breathing tests. When appropriate, a physician may recommend a bronchoscopy or lung biopsy.
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At Nelson MacNeil Rayfield, our experienced mesothelioma lawyers believe that employees and consumers should always be treated with dignity and respect. Moreover, to ensure that society remains as safe as possible, it’s imperative that those who fail to meet the minimal standards set by the law be held responsible for the harm they cause by their negligent or intentionally wrongful acts. If you have suffered ill effects from exposure to asbestos and you need representation, or if you simply have some questions you would like answered, we invite you to call. We are happy to help in any way that we can.