Asbestos is a naturally-occuring fibrous mineral of metamorpic hydrous magnesium silicate. The term “metamorphic” can be used to explain a process of extreme heat and pressure which creates special secondary patterns of minerals with new substance or physical properties. As the principal rock is recooled and warmed, silicate crystals align in long rows of mineral fibers, which readily separate into tiny shards thinner than a human hair. Asbestos fibers aren’t a health hazard as long as they are undisturbed. However, asbestos is undergoes natural weathering, or is mined and processed when, the microscopic particles waft into the atmosphere and cause disease if they are inhaled.
Asbestosis happens when the entire body’s natural defence mechanisms irritates, causing inflammation and scarring which eventually restricts lung function. Mesothelioma is a malignant tumor of the membranes surrounding the heart, lungs and abdominal cavity. Asbestos can also cause cancer of the mouth, stomach, esophagus, larynx, throat, lung and lymphoid tissue.
Asbestos exposure may also cause non-fatal illnesses such as asbestos warts, caused when asbestos fibers are lodged in the skin, causing lumps of scar tissue to form round the irritant in exactly the same manner as they do in the lungs to cause asbestosis; pleural plaques, distinct, sometimes calcified fibrous lesions which is visible on X rays but are too small to cause breathing disability; and diffuse pleural thickening, which may cause breathing impairment when it is extensive.
Because of its fire resistant properties, asbestos has been used historically for industrial and family functions. It’s been found woven into burial cloths in ancient Egypt, and Charlemagne reportedly had a tablecloth made of asbestos which he would throw right into a fire to clean.
In World War II asbestos was considered significant from the War Department that it was considered a strategic stuff, and many American workers were exposed in the World War II boom in shipbuilding. Following the war, it had been popular in the building industry.
In modern Western society, it was used as oven insulation, brake shoes, lamp wicks, electrical hotplate wiring as well as house insulation, roofing and flooring for such diverse functions. For example, some forms of vermiculite used in home insulation into the 1970s contained asbestos. This merchandise was prohibited by the EPA in 1977.
When a home owner discovers asbestos within an old house, it should not be a cause for immediate panic. If the asbestos seems intact and is not pulverized, it’s best to leave it alone. However, due to legal liability, schools and companies comprising asbestos typically must experience a costly removal procedure, hazardous in itself because touching the stable asbestos product causes fibers to fill the air. Unique gear has to be used to insure the removal procedure does not cause health problems where non existed before.
Most industrialized countries have reduced or prohibited the utilization of asbestos for at least 30 years and now use fiberglass or woven ceramic fiber as a substitute, but since asbestos-caused disease has a latency period of up to 50 years, patients are still presenting with these illness today. Every year in America, about 3000 new cases of mesothelioma are diagnosed, and 550 deaths occurs due to asbestosis. As stated by the March 1991 Report of the Judicial Conference Ad Hoc Committee on Asbestos Litigation, asbestos exposure has caused the deaths of about 200,000 to 265,000 Americans.
When 1 million short tons of the stuff were used, asbestos use peaked in 1973 in the United States. The EPA attempted to institute a complete legal ban on the usage of asbestos goods in 1989; yet, this ban was largely eviscerated by the US 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in 1991, plus some restricted use of asbestos, albeit in fewer products than than before, restarted. Therefore, even today some workers are being subjected to this hazardous substance.
Concerns concerning the health dangers of asbestos exposure date back to 1898, when the Chief Inspector of Factories of the United Kingdom reported to Parliament in his Annual Report concerning the “bad effects of asbestos dust”. He noted the “sharp, glass like nature of the particles” when permitted to stay frozen in the air, “have been found to be injurious, as might have now been anticipated”. In 1906 a British Parliamentary Commission confirmed the first cases of asbestos-associated deaths in Bristish factories and called for improved ventilation as well as other security measures. In 1918 an American insurance company produced a study showing premature deaths in the asbestos business in the United States and in 1926 the Massachusetts Industrial Accidents Board processed the very first successful compensation claim with a sick asbestos worker.
Today, suits claiming damages for asbestos-related illnesses certainly are a growth industry in the legal profession. An internet search of “mesothelioma lawyer” produces 1,910,000 results. The original makers of asbestos products have been driven into Chapter 11 bankruptcy; plaintiffs have now turned to suing corporations to asbestos products with connections that were peripheral. More than 70 American corporations have filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy in liability claims.
Considering that the 1970 ‘s 6% of all suits filed in American courts have already been asbestos-related. The litigations now confronting the courts have been described as “an elephantine mass” by the US Supreme Court, and therefore are likely to cost between 200 to 275 billion dollars to settle. The asbestos obligation is among the greatest issues facing the global insurance industry today.
Most epidemiological studies anticipated the number of lawsuits to peak in the 1990s, but this has not happened, either due to the long latency period of asbestos-associated ailments, or because legal action is getting more popular among asbestos-exposed members of the public due to high profile legal cases and widespread marketing by lawyers who specialize in such cases.
Many criticisms have now been made by representatives of industries facing suits and the insurance companies who will be expected to pay them the asbestos-litigation business is rife with fraud, with less that half of all payouts reaching the plaintiffs. Competitive, ambulance-chasing lawyers are said to exaggerate medical disability and coach customers on their testimony.
The number of plaintiffs contains not only those who have just want compensation for potential future health threats and have a history of asbestos exposure, but also sick people. In line with the American Academy of Acturaries Mass Tort Work Group, more than 100 million Americans have been exposed to asbestos in their own workplace throughout the past century.