What is asbestos and why is it dangerous?

March 20, 2020  |  Mesothelioma
Asbestos Fibers

What Is It?

Did you know that an asbestos fiber is 700 times smaller than a human hair?  The mineral known as asbestos is made up of fibers so tiny that 80,000 of them will fit onto a single grain of rice. Yet, pound for pound, asbestos is stronger than steel.

This sturdy, virtually indestructible fiber is a naturally occurring ore found in mines and quarries throughout the United States and all over the world. It is inexpensive to extract from the earth and easy to break down into individual fibrils that can be woven into fabric or fabricated into building products.

Individual asbestos fibrils are so small that they cannot be seen with the naked eye. Due to their microscopic size, asbestos fibers can remain airborne for days, until they eventually settle into the soil – or onto your carpet or clothes. When asbestos is crushed, it does not make ordinary dust. The tiny fibers are too small to see, feel or taste.

Why Is It Dangerous?

Once inhaled into your lungs, asbestos fibrils cannot easily be broken down, destroyed or removed by the body’s natural defenses. When asbestos is inhaled, its barb-shaped ends burrow deep into the lungs, where the fibers can fester for years, decades even, and can eventually lead to deadly diseases such as lung cancer and mesothelioma.

How People Are Exposed

Many construction materials and heat-resistant fabrics were made with asbestos fibers from the 1940s through the 1970s. While the end product, such as acoustic ceiling tile, decorative plaster, steam pipe gaskets or furnace insulation, might not be harmful to look at or even to touch, cutting, sanding, scraping or crushing asbestos products releases the fibers into the air – and that is where the danger lies.

Workers who constructed homes, apartment complexes and commercial buildings throughout the 1960s and 1970s often worked with or around the tradesmen who mixed powdered wall-joint compounds, textured paints and plasters that frequently contained asbestos, which was added by manufacturers for its strength, soundproofing, and heat resistant qualities.

Employees who toiled in American metal foundries, chemical plants, paper mills and other industrial sites throughout the last half of the twentieth century frequently found themselves working near those who sawed pre-molded asbestos insulation to cover steam pipes, or mixed powdered asbestos cement for lining furnaces with firebrick and refractory mortar.

Even family members who did not work outside the home were subject to exposure to asbestos, as they were often tasked with shaking out their family’s dusty work clothes before tossing them in the wash. The act of shaking dust-ridden coveralls and other clothing released millions of carcinogenic asbestos fibers into the air, where they couldn’t help but be inhaled by those who did the laundry.

The Appalling Truth

No amount of asbestos inhalation or ingestion is safe. Any product containing greater than one percent of asbestos is considered to be “asbestos-containing” and therefore dangerous if disturbed by cutting, sanding, scraping or being broken apart.

Asbestos disease is “dose-related”, meaning that the more asbestos fibers you breathe in, the more likely you are to get sick. With the aggressive asbestos cancer mesothelioma, however, even a very small or limited exposure to asbestos fibers can cause fatal disease of the lining of the lung, abdomen or heart. The appalling truth is that the use of asbestos is still killing 10,000 people in America every year because, amazingly, asbestos has not been banned in the United States. Products, such as some automotive brake linings and clutch facings, can still be purchased which contain the dangerous mineral. If you or someone you love has been affected by mesothelioma cancer caused by asbestos, you might be able to take legal action against the asbestos manufacturers responsible for your suffering. Please contact Baron & Budd online or call 855-280-7664 to learn more.

News Articles

View All