Understanding the different types of asbestos and risks involved

You may have discussed asbestos on one or more occasions, especially in relation to the many factories, old buildings, railroads and shipyards in Pittsburgh. The dangers of asbestos are well known, and studies show there is no safe amount of exposure. This is why laws and regulations regarding asbestos removal or health risks in the workplace are so stringent.

Your employer is legally obligated to inform you of any known risk on the job or in your work environment. Your employer must also provide proper training and equipment to help you stay as safe as possible. It's always a good idea, however, to do your own research as well, such learning more about the different types of asbestos and the types of illness or injuries associated with each. Sadly, many people have suffered incurable illnesses when their employers failed to keep them safe.

Two main types of asbestos

Asbestos is microscopic, so there is usually no way to know if it is present merely by using your eyes to scan your immediate surroundings. The following information explains the two main categories that classify asbestos fibers and the risks associated with each type:

  • Back when it was common to use asbestos in commercial industries, most projects included white asbestos. The scientific name for this type of asbestos is chrysotile, and it is the only type of fiber in the serpentine asbestos category, which derives its name due to its long, curly shape. 
  • There are still many products in use in the U.S. today that contain white asbestos.
  • Chrysotile is flame retardant and heat resistant, which is why it was such a popular choice in commercial industries.
  • There are five other types of microscopic mineral fibers that often makeup asbestos. However, if asbestos contains these fibers, it is categorized as amphibole asbestos.
  • Amphibole asbestos is also known as blue asbestos. As opposed to being long and curly like serpentine asbestos, blue asbestos fibers are brittle and needle-shaped.
  • Due to the sharpness of such fibers, exposure to blue asbestos typically increases the risk of injury if you inhale or ingest the minerals.
  • Blue asbestos typically occurs in natural deposits, as its brittle and sharp shape does not make it a good candidate for commercial use.

You can suffer asbestos exposure at work (occupational exposure), in your natural environment (through outdoor activities, such as gardening), or breathing in air when you live close to a factory or other place that produces or uses the material. You may also contract a serious illness through secondary exposure to asbestos, such as if your spouse or other family member carries it home from work on his or her clothing, skin or hair.

If the danger hits home

Asbestos illness diagnoses have devastated the lives of many Pennsylvania residents. There are no known cures for diseases such as mesothelioma and asbestosis at this time. If you or your loved one learn that such illness has hit your family, it is understandable that you may feel overwhelmed and worried about the future.

It can be quite helpful to speak to others who are going through similar experiences. Since many asbestos-related injuries involve employer negligence, victims and their families also often request consultations with experienced asbestos litigation attorneys to explore what options they might have for seeking restitution.

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