Louisiana construction workers face a substantial risk for death from mesothelioma, asbestosis and other asbestos-related diseases. As FindLaw explains, asbestos is a naturally-occurring mineral that has been mined for over a century in the United States and used extensively in construction and consumer products because of its excellent insulating abilities and resistance to heat and flame.
The problem with asbestos is that, unlike most minerals, when it breaks down due to age or deterioration caused by drilling, scraping, sanding, etc., it turns into microscopic fibers that disperse into the air and/or fall onto clothing, food and cooking utensils. Workers inhale these fibers which then build up in their lungs, causing irreparable damage.
Where asbestos is found
Asbestos was used in virtually all construction and building materials until the 1970s when its carcinogenic properties first started becoming apparent. The Environmental Protecting Agency estimates that over 1 million commercial and public buildings contain significant amounts of asbestos, making renovation and/or demolition a hazardous process.
Although asbestos has been banned in 55 countries, it is still legal in America. Today’s products and materials that contain asbestos include the following:
- Heavy machinery parts
- Floor tiles
- Brake pads
- Paper goods
Those most at risk
Workers who are most at risk for asbestos exposure today include the following:
- Construction workers
- Bricklayers and stone masons
- Welders and pipefitters
- Drywall installers
In addition, auto repair workers and those who work for companies manufacturing asbestos products are also at risk. Firefighters, too, are at risk because they often are called to put out fires in older buildings.
When symptoms occur
It takes years, even decades, for symptoms of an asbestos-related illness to develop. Diagnoses 20-50 years after initial exposure are not uncommon. The severity of the illness, as well as its prognosis, depends upon how long the worker was exposed to asbestos and the quantity of asbestos fibers he or she inhaled during that time. Asbestos illnesses and conditions cannot be cured. The best that can happen is that they can be managed and not become any worse.