Asbestos was a popular ingredient used in construction and building materials before it was confirmed to be carcinogenic, meaning known to cause cancer in humans. Asbestos was often mixed into cement to strengthen the product and improve its resistance to corrosion. Today, asbestos cement sheets can still be found in many homes and buildings. This can put the people in these buildings at risk of harmful asbestos exposure.
What Is Asbestos?
Asbestos refers to a group of six minerals that are naturally found in rock and soil. From the late 1800s until the 1970s, asbestos was used to manufacture a wide range of products. It was a popular additive due to its natural properties of strength, durability, and resistance to heat and corrosion. For these reasons, it was especially common in the construction of homes and buildings.
Health Risks Associated With Exposure to Asbestos
The health problems connected to asbestos begin with an individual being exposed to particles or fibers. If a product that contains asbestos is damaged or disturbed, asbestos dust can enter the air or atmosphere. This puts anyone in the area at risk of inhaling or ingesting the asbestos fibers. When asbestos enters the body, the fibers can become lodged with no way to remove them.
Over the span of many years (the average latency period is 20-60+ years), the asbestos particles can rub and irritate the surrounding tissues, causing inflammation and scarring. A buildup of scar tissue can place pressure on the organs, including the lungs, and cause related illnesses such as asbestosis (a chronic lung condition), lung cancer, pleural thickening, and pleural effusion.
If asbestos fibers get stuck in the mesothelial tissues – the thin layer of tissue that protects most of the internal organs – they can cause cancer known as mesothelioma. This is an aggressive and fatal cancer with no known cure. Mesothelioma and other asbestos-related illnesses do not develop right away. Many people do not realize they’ve been exposed to asbestos until years later when the tissue damage becomes severe enough to cause noticeable symptoms.
Asbestos and Cement
In 1987, the International Agency for Research on Cancer published a statement confirming that all six types of asbestos can cause cancer. Two years later, in 1989, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued a final rule banning most asbestos-containing products (a rule that was later overturned). Today, asbestos can still be used to manufacture products in the U.S., but the amount must be no more than 1 percent.
Prior to laws being passed against the use of asbestos, it was often used in poured cement and cement sheeting. Chrysotile asbestos was the most commonly used type. It is also the type of asbestos connected most often to malignant mesothelioma, according to the National Library of Medicine. Chrysotile asbestos would be mixed with regular cement and shaped into various products, including cement sheets used for roofing, walls, and siding. Asbestos cement sheets are especially common in garage roofing.
Although asbestos cement sheets can no longer legally be manufactured in the U.S., they can still be found in many homes and buildings today. Any structure built prior to the 1990s may contain asbestos cement in its siding, roofing, shingles, and interior walls. Asbestos cement sheets were also used in many commercial structures, army barracks, and military buildings. Some of the top brands that manufactured asbestos cement sheets were Johns-Manville, National Gypsum Company, GAF Corporation, and Turner & Newall.
How to Identify Asbestos Cement Sheets
It can be difficult to tell asbestos cement sheets from regular cement. These sheets can be flat or corrugated (wavy). The visibility of asbestos in cement sheets depends on the specific product. In some cases, a close inspection can show a weathered white or gray appearance in asbestos cement. The white-colored spots of cement are the white asbestos. However, it can be difficult to tell for certain, especially for someone who is not trained to look for asbestos. The best way to identify asbestos cement sheets in your home or business is to hire a professional inspector.
What to Do if You Encounter Asbestos Cement Sheets
If you believe your home or business contains asbestos cement sheets, avoid contact with the material. Harmful exposure to asbestos typically occurs when asbestos-containing materials are cracked, damaged, disturbed, or weathered. This can release asbestos dust into the air, creating the potential for it to be inhaled or ingested.
Before beginning any construction or renovation project that could disturb asbestos cement sheets, hire a licensed asbestos abatement professional to come to your location, conduct asbestos testing, and safely remove and dispose of any asbestos-containing materials. Attempting to handle asbestos cement sheets on your own could put you and your family at risk of related illnesses.
Asbestos Cement Sheets and Lawsuits
Individuals who suffered exposure to asbestos through cement sheets may have grounds to file product liability lawsuits against the manufacturer of the product. A strict liability claim does not require proof that the manufacturing company was negligent; it is enough to show that an item was contaminated with asbestos and caused the victim’s illness. If the manufacturer has gone bankrupt, a victim may still be able to file an asbestos trust fund claim. These funds have been set up by many companies to compensate victims who were exposed to asbestos through their products after declaring bankruptcy.
Anyone who worked in an occupation that made, manufactured, installed, or repaired cement sheets could also be at risk of related illnesses. This includes construction workers, contractors, carpenters, masons and bricklayers, roofers, siding installers, and military personnel. If you were exposed to asbestos cement sheets on the job, you may be able to file a workers’ compensation claim or a lawsuit against your employer. A successful insurance settlement or judgment award for exposure to asbestos could pay for your related medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, lost quality of life, emotional distress, and more.
Contact an Asbestos Attorney at Bailey & Glasser, LLP
If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, lung cancer or another serious illness connected to asbestos and believe cement sheets were how you were exposed, contact an attorney at Bailey & Glasser, LLP for a free consultation about a potential case. We can help you explore your legal options for seeking justice and maximum financial compensation.