Louisiana's environment has had a tough time in the last century. Hurricanes habitually wreck coastal communities, oil spills have laid waste to precious resources, and the chemical factories that lined the Mississippi River also filled its delta with dangerous substances.
Asbestos has probably been a serious health hazard for centuries, but scientists first drew attention to its risks in the last 100 years. The fibers of the crystalline material may cause cancer and other problems in the lungs and the lining of several major organs. Although it is no longer used in building and manufacturing, it is still discovered in older sites.
Asbestos has been part of human history for thousands of years. The crystalline fiber's natural resistance to heat led to its name, which is an ancient Greek word meaning "inextinguishable." This led some early societies to make cooking tools with solid pieces of asbestos.
Nothing has cost more damages from corporations and more time in civil courts than battles over exposure to asbestos. The crystalline fiber has been connected to various health ailment, including lung damage and lung cancers, and many workers and residents inhaled the fibers in the last half of the twentieth century.
Lawsuits regarding the harmful effects of asbestos have collectively become the longest-running and most expensive class of civil legal actions in United States history. Thousands of shipbuilders, refinery workers and contractors have fallen victim to asbestos-related illnesses in the last 50 years. But exposure did not stop in the workplace.
Asbestos has wrought havoc on thousands of people's health and the court systems of dozens of states. Compensation for use of the hazardous fibrous material as an insulator or construction material has cost manufacturers and governments hundreds of millions of dollars over nearly five decades of constant litigation.
The era of unmitigated environmental damage from harmful products and emissions is over, but Louisiana still suffers the consequences of old problems. Asbestos, a fibrous material connected to lung cancer and other respiratory problems, is still the subject of lawsuits in the Bayou State.
Louisiana is known for many things, such as incredible food options and a rich fascinating culture. Some people know about the darker sides of Bayou State, many of which stem from the Mississippi River's pollution from chemical factories during the early part of the 20th century.
Asbestos has been the bane of the construction industry for decades. The dangers of the material have been evident since the 1970s, and the U.S. government banned its continued use in 1986. But problems remain, as some schools and other facilities still have asbestos in walls, ceilings and corners accessible by the public.
Natural disasters like hurricanes, tornadoes and earthquakes clearly pose a serious risk to anyone in the affected area and to the rescue workers who then come in to assist after the fact. However, outside of traditional risks like unstable structures and flooding, it is important to note that there is also a serious risk of asbestos exposure when older buildings are damaged or destroyed.