Courtesy of Peter G. Angelos, Attorney at Law – www.angeloslaw.com
Asbestos is the name for a group of naturally occurring fibrous silicate minerals that have excellent heat resistant properties and high tensile strength. Because of its unusual physical and chemical properties, asbestos has been used in products dating back almost 4,500 years. During the 20th century, asbestos was heavily used in such products as thermal insulation, cements, textiles, floor tiles, wallboard, gaskets, ropes, fireproof clothing, brakes and other products that needed heat resistant properties.
Types of Asbestos
The mineral group known as asbestos is comprised of two varieties: serpentine and amphibole.
More than 90% of the asbestos used in commercial products is of the serpentine variety known as chrysotile. Known for its snake-like, curly appearance, this soft, flexible serpentine type of asbestos can be mixed and woven into products that require high tensile strength and flexibility. Most of the chrysotile asbestos has been mined in Canada and the Soviet Union, but chrysotile was also mined to a lesser degree in the United States.
A second form of the commercial asbestos, the amphiboles, have a needle-like shape and harder composition, and were used to a lesser extent than chrysotile, but present a great threat of harm to individuals. Tremolite, another type of amphibole, is often found as a contaminant of Canadian chrysotile, increasing the dangerousness of that type of asbestos. The two primary types of amphiboles, amosite and crocidolite, were often blended with chrysotile in thermal insulation products such as asbestos pipe covering, brick and cement. Amosite is mined primarily in South Africa and crocidolite in Australia and South Africa.
Most individuals who have been injured or died from asbestos-related diseases were exposed when asbestos-containing thermal insulation products were installed or replaced in commercial and industrial buildings. The application of these products by tradesmen often required sawing, cutting and pounding of the insulation, a process which emitted billions of microscopic asbestos fibers into the atmosphere. Anyone in the vicinity of the application was at risk for breathing the fibers and developing disease. Even many wives who shook out and washed the dust-laden clothes of their husbands have developed asbestos disease.
Asbestos Companies’ Knowledge of Dangers
Information concerning the health hazards of asbestos began appearing in the medical and scientific literature in the early 1900’s. By the late 1930’s, respected medical journals contained articles which described how asbestos could cause asbestosis and cancer, that the disease took 15 years or more to develop (latency period), that the diseases were often progressive, and that asbestos disease could be fatal. In addition to the growing body of medical literature about the dangers of asbestos published throughout the early to mid-twentieth century, many asbestos insulation companies had their own corporate memos, notes, letters and scientific articles explaining the health dangers of asbestos exposure.
Despite this large body of knowledge, the asbestos companies failed to adequately warn those who could come into contact with their products about the health hazards of such exposure. This failure to adequately warn those who would foresee ably come into contact with the asbestos emitted when the asbestos products were installed and removed is the basis for the negligence and/or strict liability lawsuits against these companies.
For more information on Asbestos exposure, Mesothelioma and your legal rights, contact the law offices of Peter G. Angelos at: