Asbestos was a popular material in the U.S. construction and shipbuilding industry for a period of more than 100 years. As the twentieth century progressed, doctors and scientists began to realize that exposure to asbestos could be lethal to humans. This dangerous substance is now tightly regulated, but it is still present in many older buildings, vehicles and other work environments. Every Chicago workers’ compensation attorney is aware that employees who come into contact with asbestos are at risk of cancer and respiratory disease.

What is asbestos?

Asbestos gets its name from the Greek word meaning “inextinguishable” or “fireproof.” The name is given to a group of naturally fire-resistant minerals such as chrysotile and actinolite. These minerals are made of tiny fibers that resist corrosion, flame and heat. The fibers can enter the human body and cause a number of disabling or lethal conditions.

Which workers are at risk of asbestos exposure?

Workers in many industries are at risk of asbestos exposure. The greatest hazards are in the following professions:

  • Construction
  • Building repair and renovation
  • Automotive clutch and brake repair
  • Ship repair
  • Demolition

People who work in older school buildings are also at risk, even if their jobs do not involve construction or heavy repair.

Asbestos causes lung disease

Exposure to asbestos can lead to a severe and sometimes fatal lung disease known as asbestosis, as a Chicago workers’ compensation attorney knows. This disease is caused by breathing air contaminated with asbestos fibers. The fibers lodge in the lungs and create a long-term buildup of scar tissue. As the scar tissue increases, lung function decreases. Some workers become permanently disabled because of asbestosis. This lung condition is a primary cause of long-term disability among construction employees and shipbuilding workers. It also affects many factory workers and miners who were exposed to asbestos on the job.

Asbestos causes cancer

Mesothelioma, an asbestos-related cancer, is one of the most deadly occupational diseases known in the modern world. According to studies by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, just a few days of exposure to asbestos on the job can cause eventual death from mesothelioma. This cancer is a malignant tumor that attacks the lining of organs such as the stomach or the lungs. All types of asbestos fiber can lead to mesothelioma in workers.

Asbestos kills thousands of workers every year, according to OSHA statistics. Employees have the right to a safe workplace. People who are living with a work-related lung disease should consider speaking with a Chicago workers’ compensation attorney.