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Answers to questions about asbestos

If you work in an industry here in Pennsylvania in which asbestos exposure could occur, you might have some questions. More than likely, your employer provided you with an antiseptic and brief presentation about this toxic substance, if you received any information about it at all.

Instead, you may have seen an OSHA poster hanging in a break room or some other communal place at work. It may have provided you with some information, but you still need answers about what asbestos is and what health risks it may pose to you and your family.

What is it?

You probably already know that it's dangerous, but you may not understand why. Asbestos actually consists of six different mineral fibers. The characteristics of the minerals that make up asbestos include the following:

  • Naturally occurring in rocks and soil
  • Heat resistant
  • Invisible to the naked eye
  • Not evaporable
  • Not water soluble
  • Largely bacteria resistant
  • Largely chemical resistant

There are two general types of asbestos. Less commonly used in commercial products, Amphibole has needle- or rod-like fibers that are more brittle than the other type. Chrysotile asbestos has more flexible fibers than Amphibole, which may be why industries use it most often in commercial products.

You may need to know that exposure to any kind of asbestos endangers your health. There are no truly safe exposure levels.

Where is it?

You can find asbestos in numerous locations, products and industries. Some of the more common sources of exposure include the following:

  • Demolition projects
  • Floor tiles, Insulation or ceiling tiles
  • Renovation projects
  • Asbestos fibers on the body or clothing
  • Asbestos mines or factories
  • An improperly maintained or designed asbestos disposal or storage area
  • Rocks and soil disturbed by activity

When you discovered that asbestos occurs naturally, that may have diminished its true threat to your health in your mind. This may be true as long as asbestos isn't disturbed. However, when stirred up, dust particles and fibers get into the air and stay there. You then breathe them into your lungs. Time and exposure levels dictate the havoc the substance can wreak on your body.

What does it do?

Asbestos causes a variety of illnesses such as asbestosis and mesothelioma. It may also cause several types of cancer. The problem is that it can take decades for you to exhibit any symptoms of illness after your initial exposure. Doctors may be able to manage most of the medical conditions associated with asbestos exposure, but no cure exists. Some conditions are fatal.

What happens next?

Once you receive a diagnosis of an asbestos-related illness, you can more than likely count on having significant medical expenses. You may lose your ability to provide for you and your family. It may be possible to receive compensation for your illness related to asbestos exposure, however. Because of the time lapse between exposure and illness, it may be a challenge to obtain the compensation you deserve. You may benefit greatly from seeking advice and assistance.

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