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What is Asbestos Poisoning?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 18 September 2016
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Asbestos poisoning is an umbrella term to describe a variety of health conditions caused by exposure to asbestos. People with asbestos poisoning are often entitled to seek legal compensation for their illness, if they can determine the cause and prove that a particular exposure caused the disease. New cases of asbestos poisoning are constantly being diagnosed, although thanks to increasing abatement measures, public health officials hope that new diagnoses will begin declining in the future.

Asbestos is a naturally occurring fibrous mineral which was widely used in a variety of industries until the medical community realized that it caused numerous health problems. Most classically, asbestos was used in insulation and fireproofing, but it was also utilized in tile and other materials. When the asbestos is in an inert state, it does not cause health problems, but once the mineral is disturbed, as might be the case when asbestos insulation is pulled out of a ceiling for replacement, people can be exposed to the fibers, and health problems can result.

One of the most serious consequences of asbestos exposure is cancer such as mesothelioma or lung cancer. Cancers can also appear in other areas of the body. Patients may develop asbestosis, a lung condition, or asbestos warts, lesions on the skin caused by particles of asbestos which have been lodged in the skin. Issues with the digestive tract as a result of asbestos exposure have also been recorded.

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A major issue with asbestos poisoning is that it can take years for symptoms to appear, which makes it very hard to determine how and when someone was exposed. Someone who worked in an asbestos mine might be able to make a strong case that the exposure was clearly occupational, but someone who went to school in a facility with asbestos might have a harder time making a case, as he or she could have been exposed to asbestos in lots of environments, not just school.

People with asbestos poisoning need medical treatment, whether or not they can determine where and when they were exposed. Many patients diagnosed with asbestos-related conditions find themselves being visited by lawyers who specialize in asbestos cases. Patients should be careful about taking offers from lawyers, as the terms of any settlement may turn out to be more favorable for the lawyer than they will be for the patient.

Now that asbestos is recognized as toxic, people are working on asbestos abatement programs in many regions of the world. Public facilities which contain asbestos have been closed and remodeled to remove the dangerous substance and replace it with something inert, and many people also remove asbestos in the course of remodeling homes. People who are considering prospective real estate purchases may want to consider testing for asbestos during the inspection period to determine whether or not asbestos is present, as abatement can be very expensive.

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