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Where Was I Exposed to Asbestos?

Asbestos, a group of minerals prized for their durability and heat resistance, was widely used across the United States until the 1980s. Unfortunately, doctors and scientists later linked the material to a variety of diseases, including the rare cancer mesothelioma.

It’s difficult to track exactly where Americans would have encountered asbestos. But given how readily available it was and how frequently it was used in the construction of buildings and consumer products during the 20th century, some experts suspect that nearly every American was exposed to the material at one point or another during this time period.

If you or a loved one lived or worked in an area with a high risk of asbestos exposure, it’s important to learn more about where you may have come into contact with the carcinogen. Luckily, it usually takes multiple exposures to asbestos for someone to develop issues with their health. This is why people in certain occupations have a higher risk of developing mesothelioma, asbestosis, and other asbestos-related diseases. Understanding your history with asbestos could help your doctor determine whether you’re at risk for mesothelioma or another cancer linked to asbestos.

Asbestos Exposure in the United States

Given the practical applications of asbestos, it was used virtually everywhere in the United States. This is especially true for any building that constructed before 1980, and even some built as recently as 2004. While that means that anyone could have been exposed to the mineral, there are areas where the risk is greater. These include locations of asbestos mines, large manufacturers that used asbestos, and states that received large shipments of the material to import and export.

One city alone, Libby, Montana, was responsible for much of the asbestos shipped around the country. From 1948 to 1993, over five million tons of asbestos were shipped out of Libby to almost every state. See the map below to see what states received the largest amounts (in metric tons) of asbestos from Libby.
This heat map shows where the most asbestos was shipped out of Libby, Montana.

Environmental Exposure

Given that it’s a mineral, asbestos can be found in nature. Asbestos isn’t inherently dangerous when undisturbed, but areas where asbestos has run off into water and soil can be hazardous. Still, it is unlikely for someone to develop mesothelioma from natural deposits. In towns like Libby, Montana, however, asbestos mines can plague the entire population.

Asbestos Mining in Libby, Montana

Much of the asbestos distributed in the United States can be traced back to Libby, Montana. This is due to the large vermiculite mineral deposits that miners discovered near Libby. Vermiculite is used in a variety of applications, including insulation, brake linings, roofing and flooring materials, soil conditioners, packing materials, waste treatment, and more. However, none of the workers or people living in the town realized that Libby’s vermiculite was contaminated with asbestos. The city started mining vermiculite in 1919 and didn’t stop until 1990. At one time, this small town mined and distributed as much as 80 percent of the world’s vermiculite, all of which was contaminated with a highly friable (brittle) form of asbestos.

Today, more than 2,400 people have been diagnosed with asbestos-related diseases in Libby. It’s impossible to know if this is the total number, however, as many asbestos-related conditions weren’t a recognizable cause of death until recently. Mesothelioma, for example, wasn’t listed as a cause of death on death certificates until 1999. This makes it difficult to measure how many people from Libby died from asbestos exposure, especially those who suffered from secondary exposure.

Secondary Exposure

Friable asbestos refers to a form of the mineral that is easily crumbled. When this happens, the microscopic barbs can become airborne. This is how most people inhale or ingest asbestos, which can lead to health issues down the line. However, asbestos dust and fibers can also settle on clothes, skin, and hair, putting anyone at risk for secondary exposure.

Secondary exposure occurs when someone comes into contact with asbestos through another person. Similar to secondhand smoke from cigarettes, secondary asbestos exposure can cause the same diseases in people as it does in those who deal with it directly. This is especially true of the families of men and women who worked in or near asbestos mines. What looks like harmless dust that could have settled on someone’s clothes could actually contain the carcinogen that leads to mesothelioma, asbestosis, and other cancers.

9/11: The World Trade Center Attack in New York

As shown in this picture, tons of asbestos was made airborne in the collapse of the World Trade Center during the 9/11 attacks.The tragedy we experienced as a country on September 11, 2001, will never be forgotten. It was a moment that permanently impacted the lives of thousands of New Yorkers. Unfortunately, many of those trying to move on are still suffering nearly two decades later. When the World Trade Center fell, dust blanketed the city. People miles away were covered in the remnants of their skyline. What many did not realize at the time was that this deadly dust cloud also contained asbestos.

More and more people who lived or worked near Ground Zero are being diagnosed with asbestos-related diseases each year. And, given the latency period for cancers like mesothelioma, it is likely that more will be diagnosed in the decades to come. If you were in New York City during 9/11, it is possible that you were exposed to asbestos. If you develop mesothelioma or another asbestos-related illness as a result of this exposure, there may be legal action to take for financial compensation. Request a free legal consultation and learn more about your options.

Signs of Asbestos Exposure

Though mesothelioma has a long latency period, there are signs that one may be developing it. This illustration shows a doctor going over the signs that someone may have been exposed to asbestos.Asbestos does not affect a person overnight. In many cases, 10 to 60 years may pass before any symptoms develop. Still, identifying where one may have been exposed to asbestos can help doctors with their diagnosis and catch certain cancers, like mesothelioma, at an earlier stage. Early diagnosis and treatment can significantly improve the patient’s prognosis.

Getting Help for Asbestos-Related Disease

There are resources out there for people who have been diagnosed with mesothelioma. This image shows a legal team sitting with someone who has been affected by asbestos.While there is no cure for mesothelioma or other asbestos exposure-related illnesses, there are treatments available that can mitigate the symptoms and improve the patient’s prognosis. If you’ve been diagnosed with mesothelioma, talk to your doctor about your treatments options. They can create a multimodal treatment plan for you and help determine which therapies have the best chance of success.

Also, remember that you may have legal recourse. Get a free case evaluation and see what options are available. You may be entitled to compensation that could help pay for treatment or loss of income.

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We’re here for you every step of the way.

(205) 271-4100