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Asbestos and Other Dangerous Materials in the Workplace Cause Serious Illnesses

February 24, 2017 Personal Injury

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) more than a million workers in the United States work in an environment in which they are regularly exposed to dangerous materials, including asbestos. This can be a dangerous situation for workers, as over time exposure to asbestos can result in life-threatening illnesses like mesothelioma.

A fibrous material, asbestos was commonly used as insulation in buildings for many years until the Environmental Protection Agency banned it in 1989. It’s worth noting that this ban took effect long after it became widely known that the material was linked to health complications. In the meantime, millions of workers were exposed, with many of them developing mesothelioma and other serious conditions later on.

Asbestos does occur naturally in our environment, and most people breathe in miniscule amounts daily. However, more elevated levels of asbestos, such as those found in building insulation to this day, can lead to serious health problems, including shortness of breath, chronic coughing and trouble breathing. And those are only the short-term effects.

In addition to mesothelioma, long-term asbestos exposure can lead to lung cancer, gastrointestinal cancer, abnormalities in the chest cavity and asbestosis—an inflammation of the lung that usually leads to permanent damage.

Worker Protections Against Exposure

Modern workplace safety laws protect workers against exposure to asbestos and other dangerous materials. However, certain trades, such as construction, milling, shipbuilding, automotive repair, roofing and HVAC repair, come with increased risks. This is because many older buildings still contain asbestos, and performing repairs or renovations may cause workers to be exposed.

If a job requires you to work near significant levels of asbestos, it is important to speak with a supervisor or union representative about how your employer is mitigating the level of exposure to its workers. OSHA, for its part, has strict safety standards in place requiring employers to take certain precautions to protect their workers.

Pursuing Compensation From Liable Parties

There may be several parties at fault for exposing workers to asbestos, resulting in those workers experiencing serious health complications. These may include the company that produced the asbestos-containing materials and the owners of the property where the work took place. Contractors and subcontractors may also bear some responsibility for exposing their employees to known hazards.

Generally, if you are dealing with an asbestos-related illness, you would file a workers’ compensation claim. However, if an outside party—such as a supplier or vendor—was at fault for the exposure, you may need to move forward with a personal injury lawsuit. There may be existing victim compensation funds in place, allowing you to seek monetary damages without having to file a lawsuit on your own. This can provide relief to individuals and their families already dealing with the stress of a life-threatening condition.

If you would like to learn more about your legal options related to mesothelioma and other asbestos-related illnesses, speak with a knowledgeable workers’ compensation attorney at Wallace Childers PLLC. Our lawyers proudly serve injured people throughout North Carolina and South Carolina.