Asbestos Exposure in Virginia

There are several environmental and occupational sites in Virginia that contain a mineral known as asbestos. Also carcinogenic, prolonged exposure to the mineral has been known to cause disease, such as a type of cancer called mesothelioma. Out of all 50 states, Virginia is the 10th highest in deaths from an asbestos-related condition.

This toxic mineral was once used in many different building capacities due to it being fire-resistant, durable, and cost-effective. Some of these capacities include construction, mining, and insulation. The US Military also used asbestos in building military bases, equipment, ships and shipyards, aircraft, and more, making veterans and other industrial workers at high risk for asbestos exposure.

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Diseases Related to Asbestos

The mineral forms as a bundle of fibers. When disturbed by demolition, renovation, or other methods, these fibers can become airborne, making them easier to ingest or inhale by workers or surrounding residents. Usually, when inhaled, the fibers get stuck in the lung tissue where they will irritate that area and surrounding tissues. After a latency period of about 20 or so years, mesothelioma or other asbestos-related illness could develop. Some related conditions include:

  • Asbestosis – When asbestos fibers cause scarring or damage in the lung tissues.
  • Lung cancer – Tumors that form and grow directly in the lungs.
  • Mesothelioma – Cancer that metastasizes (grows and develops) in the lining of the lungs (pleural), the abdomen (peritoneal), or heart (pericardial). Mesothelioma is the most common disease caused by prolonged asbestos exposure.
  • Pleural effusion – When prolonged exposure causes damage to the pleura, fluid can begin to build up and spill over into the chest cavity, creating pleural effusion.

Environmental Exposure in Virginia

Areas surrounding the Appalachian Mountains generally have large amounts of natural rock and soil deposits. Being a state that lies along these mountains, Virginia has large quantities of bedrock that have been known to contain asbestos. These types of rocks are locally known as greenstone due to their green or teal hues.

There are several soil types that form on greenstone, potentially contaminating that soil with harmful levels of the mineral. There are areas of greenstone-derived soil all around Virginia, but Greenstone is more prevalent in North Virginia, with proximity to Fairfax and surrounding counties. The Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District has helpful maps available containing potential asbestos soil locations. Greenstone is more prevalent in North Virginia, with proximity to Fairfax and surrounding counties.

Top 20 Virginia counties with increased risk of environmental asbestos exposure (from highest to lowest) include:

  • Newport News City
  • Hampton City
  • Virginia Beach City
  • Fairfax County
  • Chesapeake City
  • Chesterfield County
  • Portsmouth City
  • York County
  • Norfolk City
  • Henrico County
  • Suffolk City
  • Gloucester County
  • Isle of Wight County
  • James City County
  • Augusta County
  • Prince William County
  • Albemarle County
  • Alexandria City
  • Hanover County
  • Arlington County

Occupational Asbestos Use

The carcinogen was mainly used in the industrial scene, making workers and veterans the primary groups at risk for contamination. Family members, friends, and those living with asbestos workers are also at risk. If a worker has the carcinogenic fibers on their person, they could transfer those fibers to loved ones through contact with skin, hair, or clothing. This is known as indirect or secondary exposure.

This is an image representing a military base.

Military Bases

Since Virginia is on the ocean, it has a sizeable Navy presence. In fact, the Naval Station in Norfolk, Virginia contains the world’s largest naval base, housing 75 ships, and 134 aircraft, alongside 14 piers and 11 aircraft hangars. This base houses the largest concentration of US Navy forces, with air operations conducting an average of 275 flights per day, or once every six minutes.

U.S. veterans make up nearly 30 percent of all mesothelioma diagnoses, with the Navy being the largest consumer of asbestos-containing products. The mineral was utilized heavily for insulation and preventing fires on Navy ships and submarines. The Navy’s surgeon general published a report in 1939 connecting exposure with deadly lung conditions such as mesothelioma and lung cancer, but manufacturers continued supplying it to the military anyway.

Virginia Jobs at Risk

Multiple occupations have a higher risk of exposure than others. Jobs at high chance for exposure include:

  • Auto Mechanics
  • Boilermakers
  • Carpenters
  • Construction workers
  • Demolition crews
  • Electricians
  • EMTs
  • Firefighters
  • First Responders
  • Insulation installers
  • Machinery repair technicians
  • Miners
  • Pipefitters
  • Plumbers
  • Roofers
  • Ship workers

Legal Options

If you’ve been exposed to the mineral while on the job or during your time in the military, your employer could be held responsible. If that’s the case, you may be entitled to compensation to help offset the cost of medical bills, treatment, and lost wages. There is a statute of limitations or time limit to file a claim that differs from state to state, so don’t let too much time pass if you receive a diagnosis confirming an asbestos-illness.

Talk with an experienced attorney to ensure that your case is handled efficiently and correctly. If you complete our free case evaluation, you’ll be able to get feedback on your situation and determine whether filing a claim is the best option for you.

Asbestos Regulations in Virginia

Numerous organizations take action toward protecting their residents and reducing the chances of asbestos exposure by banning the use of it. However, state regulations against the mineral can differ.

Federal Regulations

Virginia follows federal requirements for exposure in general industry (brake repair, custodial, the manufacture of asbestos products), and for exposure of employees during asbestos abatement activities (repair, demolition, and removal).

EPA – The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) tried to take the mineral off the market by passing bans on production, development, and distribution of asbestos-products in 1989 and again in 2019.

NESHAP – The National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants, or NESHAP, is a set of regulations put in place by the government to help protect people and surrounding environments against exposure. The NESHAP policy requires business owners and operators to be licensed and certified to work with the carcinogenic mineral while providing at least 10 working days’ notice before beginning any demolition or construction projects that may disturb the asbestos fibers.

State Regulations

Virginia state regulations against the toxin are far more strict than the federal requirements. The state also charges certification and notification fees while regulating asbestos transportation and disposal. In fact, the state actually has its very own workplace safety and health regulatory program, which protects private and public job sites.

  • The VOSH Program – The Virginia Occupational Safety and Health (VOSH) program is an entity responsible for issuing project permits and enforcing job safety and health rules the mineral is present at job sites. The VOSH can also enforce NESHAP rules, and regulate the state’s asbestos licensing program.
  • OSHA – Construction safety is managed by the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry, which distributes the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) regulations for areas containing naturally occurring asbestos. All worksites are currently bound by OSHA’s General Duty Clause, which mandates employers to provide a workplace free of hazards that can cause death or harm. It also regulates permissible exposure limits (PELs) for airborne asbestos.
  • Virginia Department of Health (VDH) – The VDH’s mission is to protect the health and promote the well-being of all Virginia residents. The VDH provides several resources to anyone who needs it, providing extensive information about the dangers of exposure to the mineral.

Cancer Treatment Centers Near Virginia

Finding a local cancer treatment center can be immensely helpful for mesothelioma or lung cancer patients, as their medical professionals have extensive experience with cancer patients and subsequent treatment.

Cancer treatment centers in or around Virginia include:

Virginia Cancer Treatment

  • Massey Cancer Center
    Richmond, Virginia
    General Information: (804) 828 0450
    New Patients: (804) 828 5116

Pennsylvania Cancer Treatment

North Carolina Cancer Treatment

Next Steps

If you’re worried you’ve been exposed to asbestos while on the job or through other means, you don’t have to go through it alone. Talk to a doctor immediately about your situation so that you can receive a proper diagnosis. The earlier illness can get detected, the more treatment options a patient could have available to them.

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