Asbestos is a natural mineral that's used in several building materials due to its strength, insulating, and fire-retardant abilities. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), it's found in these materials:
- Vermiculite-produced wall insulation
- Vinyl floor tiles
- Roofing and siding shingles
- Textured paint used on walls and ceilings
- Pipes coated with asbestos material
- Oil and coal furnaces
- Car parts
- Heat-resistant materials
The EPA banned products containing asbestos in 1989, but that ban was overturned two years later by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. Asbestos is no longer mined in the U.S., yet many products still contain it. The U.S. still imports more than 750 metric tons of it each year. Moreover, many older buildings still contain this material.
What are the dangers of asbestos exposure?
Construction workers, firefighters, and industrial workers often come in contact with asbestos. According to EHS Today, workers who are exposed to asbestos are at risk of developing two occupational diseases:
- Asbestosis: A chronic lung disease that involves lung scarring, shortness of breath, persistent coughing, chest pain and tightness, weight loss, and fingertip deformities. Asbestosis can lead to mesothelioma or lung cancer in some cases.
- Mesothelioma: A type of cancer that forms in the thin layer of tissue covering several internal organs. Symptoms include chest pain, painful coughing, shortness of breath, lumps under the skin on your chest, weight loss, abdominal pain and swelling, and nausea.
Both conditions can take about 20-30 years to develop after exposure, even for workers who have already changed occupations. Both conditions are either permanent or fatal. According to the American Lung Association, approximately 3,211 people died from asbestosis between 1999-2004.
What should I do if I became ill?
If you suspect that you have developed either of these conditions, it's critical that you notify your employer and seek medical attention. Your doctor will likely perform an x-ray or CT scan to determine the stage of the disease. A biopsy may also be performed to determine if any cancer cells are present in the lungs or around other organs.
Both diseases require life-long treatment to help you manage the symptoms. Treatments include:
- Breathing assistance devices
- Medication for pain and inflammation
- Possibly surgery
Treatment can cost thousands of dollars per month. What's worse, you may never be able to perform the same job functions you once did. Affording medical care and making ends meet without a paycheck may seem impossible. You have legal options, however.
How can a lawyer help me?
The New Jersey workers' compensation attorneys at Shebell & Shebell, LLC can help you get the benefits you need. You may be entitled to permanent disability benefits if you're unable to return to work. This would compensate you for 70 percent of your average weekly pay. We can also help you cover your medical costs and ensure that you're able to continue receiving care.
Our attorneys represent clients in all types of work-related injuries and illnesses. That includes those caused by exposure to harmful materials. Our law offices are located in Shrewsbury and Freehold, New Jersey. Contact us online to schedule your free consultation.