Some workplace risks are immediate and obvious. If you accidentally sever an electrical supply line, you could electrocute or burn yourself. If you are nearby when a tool or machine malfunctions, you might suffer a major injury as a result.
However, some of the deadliest workplace risk factors will cause no immediate health consequences. You will have no idea of the harm your job has caused until years later when a doctor diagnoses you with a work-related medical condition.
Job-related asbestos exposure isn’t immediately dangerous
Asbestos is a naturally-occurring substance that manufacturers have used for all kinds of products for decades. Workers in industries ranging from automotive manufacturing to remodeling can end up exposes to asbestos at work.
Unfortunately, asbestos is a known human carcinogen, and there is no known safe exposure level. Despite increasing safety regulations limiting how many workers must handle asbestos at work, there are thousands of workers who have likely already had workplace exposure that may eventually lead to health issues.
Anyone who has handled asbestos on the job will need to continue monitoring for asbestos-related illnesses for the rest of their lives.
Asbestos can be deadly but usually only after decades
Many of the conditions that asbestos can cause are permanent and fatal. Asbestos exposure can increase your risk of lung cancer, and it is also the primary known cause of mesothelioma. However, it will generally take decades for these medical conditions to present any noticeable symptoms.
Asbestosis may develop anywhere from 10 to 40 years after someone has exposure to asbestos on the job. Mesothelioma could take as long as 60 years to present symptoms. Workers need to consistently remind themselves about their previous job exposure and communicate with every medical professional they see about their asbestos handling history for their own protection. Otherwise, doctors could easily overlook symptoms with a known association with one of these diseases.
Asbestos-related illnesses give rise to large coins. Those sickened by asbestos exposure at work will likely have massive medical expenses as a result. Companies will often provide compensation. Even closed businesses may have funded asbestos accounts to compensate workers.
Knowing that you need to monitor yourself for signs of asbestos-related diseases for decades could help you secure a faster diagnosis and create an easier path toward securing compensation.