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Tillman & Associates, Attorneys at Law

Dangers of asbestos in the workplace

Many Georgia workers may already know that asbestosis is carcinogenic. Worldwide, 125 million workers experience asbestos exposure in the workplace, and the World Health Organization estimates that 107,000 people die annually. In addition, asbestos causes approximately 50 percent of all occupational cancer deaths.

Asbestos is a mineral and is present in several forms, all of which have low heat conductivity and are resistant to chemical interference. Historically, this made it a popular choice for a wide variety of parts used in automobiles such as brake linings, shingles, insulation and pipes.

Most deaths due to asbestos are occupational, although some deaths due to exposure outside the workplace occur each year. Asbestos exposure causes lung cancer as well as mesothelioma, a cancer that targets the lining of the abdominal and pleural cavities. When asbestos is mined, used or asbestos-containing insulation is removed, fibers in the air are introduced into the lungs. Disease may occur 30 to 50 years after exposure. Other cancers involve the larynx and the ovaries. Asbestosis is also related to exposure and causes fibrosis in the lungs.

WHO, along with the International Labour Organization, has recommended that all forms of asbestos be eliminated from the workplace and replaced with safer substances. Exposure, according to WHO, should be controlled by decreasing exposure to asbestos in existence. WHO also recommends establishment of a registry to enact surveillance of workers with exposure as well as encouraging implementation of hazardous waste procedures.

A worker who is exposed to asbestos in the workplace may benefit from consultation with an attorney. Workers may be eligible for workers' compensation for occupational illness. Other legal options might exist due to the employer's liability if exposure is not prevented or workers are not informed of the risks. An attorney may provide insight into which option is best.

Source: The Mayo Clinic, "Mesothelioma," 2014

Source: World Health Organization, "Asbestos: elimination of asbestos-related diseases", October 21, 2014

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