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As far back as a quarter of a century ago, researchers at a conference in New York expressed concerns that there would be a “third-wave” of people developing asbestos-related diseases such as mesothelioma. According to an article that appeared on the NPR website December 17, those fears may have come true.
The NPR article highlighted the story of Kris Penny, a 39-year-old Florida man who owns a flooring company. He had to go to an emergency room due to stabbing pains in his stomach and was later diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma, a disease that has but one cause – exposure to asbestos fibers. Penny concluded that he developed the disease due to inhaling fibers while working underground installing telecommunications cable a decade earlier. As a result of his diagnosis, he filed a lawsuit against AT&T.
According to the article, the researchers at the 1990 New York conference said that latent asbestos in everyday items such as ceiling tiles, automotive brakes and pipes would result in a “third-wave” of asbestos-related diseases. The first wave claimed asbestos miners, manufacturing workers and millers. The second wave affected shipbuilders, insulators and other tradespeople. As asbestos fibers that have lain dormant for decades are disturbed, the researchers stated, a new generation of people would develop health complications.
Even a slight amount of exposure to asbestos can eventually be deadly. The article, which cited data from the U.S. Geological Survey, reported that approximately 400 metric tons of asbestos was consumed in the U.S. last year. Even though the Environmental Protection Agency banned some asbestos products, it did not ban all of them.
The article pointed out just how prevalent asbestos remains in this country. Craig Benedict, a former U.S. attorney, painted a particularly bleak picture. Thanks to shoddy work and efforts to cut corners, asbestos exposure is occurring with alarming regularity. Benedict told of a case where two teenagers working on an asbestos abatement project were ordered to tear open bags of the deadly material and place them in a dumpster with regular trash.
In addition, NPR reported that untold miles of telecommunications conduit containing asbestos run underground in the U.S. Every time a worker crawls into a manhole, he or she runs the risk of potentially fatal exposure.