There are a number of Dangers Caused by Asbestos. The individual fibres in asbestos are very small and almost indestructible. Unless the products which contain the fibres are completely encapsulated, the asbestos can break down into microscopic dust. The minute asbestos fibres can then become airborne and be inhaled.
Asbestos that can easily be reduced to dust and become airborne is described as “friable”. Asbestos that is “non-friable”, that is to say cannot be reduced to dust by hand pressure, is not dangerous unless it is subjected to some other process (e.g. machine grinding, sanding and dry-buffing) which reduces it to dust that could be inhaled.
Once a person has inhaled (or swallowed) asbestos dust the fibres will remain in the body for many years because they are so durable. The tiny asbestos fibres can then penetrate the tissues of the body and lead to the development of one of a number of asbestos related diseases. Many asbestos-related illnesses take years to develop (in some cases up to fifty years).
It is not only people who have worked with asbestos that can be at risk. Even low levels of exposure can trigger disease. Family members of asbestos workers are at risk because of the asbestos fibres brought into the home on the worker’s clothing.
The dangers of asbestos became apparent soon after it entered widespread commercial use. Deaths and lung problems were noticed in asbestos mining towns before 1900. The first medical diagnosis of a death from asbestos was made in England in 1906. By 1918 insurance companies in America and Canada would no longer insure workers in the asbestos industry because of suspected health hazards. In 1935, researchers in both the England and the United States reported a suspected association between asbestos exposure and lung cancer.
Unfortunately this scientific data regarding the dangers of asbestos was for a long time ignored by many asbestos manufacturers and corporate users of asbestos materials. Companies continued to use asbestos as a building material and in manufacturing processes. Sometimes safer alternatives, such as fibreglass insulation, were ignored in favour of less expensive asbestos materials.
This failure of employers to protect their workers has led to wide spread suffering and death. Workers, and their families, who have been needlessly exposed to asbestos, and have suffered damage to their health as a consequence, are entitled to compensation for this injury.