FAQs: Asbestos Exposure Law Firm Texas

Q: What is asbestos?

A: It is a mineral that is mined, in a manner similar to other minerals such as copper, iron, and lead for use in building materials and other commonly used products. There are several known types of asbestos: the three main varieties are amosite, chrysotile, and crocidolite. While most minerals are turned into particles of dust when crushed, asbestos breaks up into minute fibers that are too small to be seen by the human eye. These individual fibers are usually mixed with another binding material and produce asbestos containing material (ACM). Inhaling these asbestos fibers (in any amount) can cause very serious health problems.

Q: How long has asbestos been in use?

A: Asbestos has been in use for approximately 100 years. One of the first known uses in the U.S. was in the early 20th century, with the purpose of insulating steam engines. Asbestos was a popular material to use because it is very durable and has an extremely high temperature rating. Its use became more common in the 1940's, and there was continued widespread use of ACM until the mid 1970's. It was common in many types of homes and buildings, including, newly constructed and remodeled schools and other public buildings. ACM (asbestos-containing materials) were used extensively in construction and in other occupations. The primary uses of ACM's were for fireproofing, insulation, soundproofing, and to decorate buildings. Unfortunately, the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) estimates there are ACM's in many of the approximately 109,000 primary and secondary schools, and over 740,000 public and commercial buildings in the nation. If the ACM is not broken or damaged, there is no harm, only if the fibers break loose, is there damage.

Q: Why was asbestos so widely used?

A: Even though manufacturers and builders were aware early on of the harmful effects if inhaled, they found asbestos too useful to not use. It's strength and flexibility, it’s inability to burn, it is not a good electricity conductor, it is an effective insulator, and also resists corrosion. There are few if any other usable substances that have all of these qualities, especially for building materials.

Q: How many and which products contain asbestos?

A: One research study estimated that there were over 3,000 different types of commercial ACM (asbestos-containing materials) products. The actual amount of asbestos in each product could be anywhere from 1 to 100 percent. Several of the heavy industrial products such as insulation, sealants, cement pipe and cement sheets contained fairly large amounts of asbestos. But also older floor tiles, brake linings, plastics, textile products, and paper products contain asbestos. It is very important to note that the law now prohibits the processing, manufacture, and importation of almost all asbestos products. Unfortunately, there are still some ACM that are allowed to be used in certain products.

Q: How are people exposed to asbestos?

A: The most common way people are exposed is through their occupation. This also means that workers' families are at risk to inhale asbestos fibers released by the workers’ clothes that have been in contact with ACM. When an ACM product is being destroyed or damaged, it releases asbestos fibers in the air and people nearby can inhale them if not correctly protected. Since asbestos fibers are small, light, and usually invisible, they can stay airborne for a long time and not be easily detected. There are two common categories called paraoccupational and neighborhood exposure. The first is when a person’s occupation causes the contact with asbestos; an example would be workers who renovate/remodel buildings with asbestos in them; may inhale fibers that became airborne when they go through the demolition process. The neighborhood exposure refers to a person that lives or works near an asbestos-related operation and is at risk for inhaling asbestos fibers that have become airborne nearby.

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