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Occupational and Environmental Exposure to Asbestos

Posted on behalf of Peter T. Nicholl in Mesothelioma & Asbestos Aug 12, 2021

blue dumpster with asbestos materials in itAsbestos is a mineral that naturally occurs in the environment. It is highly heat-resistant and cannot be broken down easily by chemicals. This mineral also cannot dissolve in water or evaporate. Asbestos may be present in the environment when it becomes released from natural deposits or asbestos-containing products. Breathing in asbestos fibers could be harmful and cause an asbestos-related disease.  

Below, we discuss environmental exposure to asbestos in greater detail and how people who live near job sites contaminated with asbestos have an increased risk of cancer, such as mesothelioma. We also explain what you can do to help reduce asbestos exposure in your home or environment. 

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Exposure to Asbestos Fibers in the Environment

Asbestos is made up of tiny toxic fibers and forms naturally in certain types of rock. Environmental exposure can happen when natural asbestos deposits are disturbed. It can spread the asbestos through soils in an area and release asbestos fibers into the air.

Asbestos may be present in waste piles from old asbestos mining operations. Companies used to mine asbestos to make many types of consumer products. While most products no longer contain asbestos, it is still used in some products in the U.S. When asbestos-containing products wear down or are improperly disposed of, asbestos fibers can also spread throughout the environment.

Asbestos fibers may even be released into the environment during demolition or renovation of older buildings or homes as well as by natural disasters, such as hurricanes, tornadoes and earthquakes.

The Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health published a study that showed environmental exposure has risen in certain geographical areas. For instance, several counties in Virginia contain rocks with high levels of naturally occurring deposits of asbestos. Other similar studies have been conducted highlighting the need for more awareness of environmental exposure to asbestos.

Living Near Contaminated Job Sites

Former asbestos mines, processing plants and manufacturing facilities can release and spread asbestos fibers into the air. People in the surrounding community face environmental exposure from these job sites that puts them at risk of developing an asbestos-related disease.

When asbestos becomes disturbed in some way and contaminates the soil in that area, these asbestos fibers can be inhaled and even be tracked into a person’s home from outside.

Research shows a link between environmental exposure to asbestos and mesothelioma. The most common type is pleural mesothelioma, a cancerous tumor in the lining of the lungs and chest wall.

Pleural thickening has also been reported among some people living near old asbestos operations over an extended period. This disease causes thickening of the lung lining or pleura.

When asbestos fibers accumulate in the lungs, it can cause scarring and chronic respiratory issues.

What to Do If You Suspect Asbestos Might Be Present

If you suspect asbestos might be present in your home or environment, there are certain steps to take to help reduce exposure and minimize your risk of developing an asbestos-related disease in the future.

Reducing Outdoor Asbestos Exposure

Avoid breathing asbestos fibers outside by:

  • Using water to wet soil before gardening. This is important if you are digging or shoveling dirt in an area with natural asbestos or contaminated asbestos soil. Use asbestos-free soil or landscape materials for any gardening or yard work that may have asbestos-containing rock or soil.
  • Spray off patios with water instead of sweeping them, as they could contain asbestos dust
  • Stay on paved trails or areas with the ground covered in grass instead of natural soil

Reducing Indoor Asbestos Exposure

Avoid breathing asbestos fibers indoors by:

  • Not touching or disturbing possible asbestos-containing materials in your home
  • Using doormats and removing shoes before entering your home if renovating
  • Using wet cleaning methods and a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) vacuum
  • Keeping windows and doors closed on windy days to keep potential asbestos out, especially if construction is happening nearby

Learn More About Your Legal Options Today

There are several legal options available to people exposed to asbestos who have since been diagnosed with mesothelioma or another asbestos-related disease. Our Maryland mesothelioma lawyers have advocated for many asbestos victims and their families, recovering significant compensation on their behalf.

Our firm works on a contingency fee basis, which means we do not charge any upfront fees to retain our services. We do not get paid unless we help you to secure compensation through a settlement or verdict.

Contact our personal injury lawyers for a free consultation if you have been injured by another’s negligence. You may be entitled to compensation.

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