Although asbestos is no longer in common use in the United States and other countries, abatement or removal is still continuing in many communities. Louisiana has a long history of manufacturing or assembling products with the crystaline fiber later assumed to be connected to lung cancer and other ailments of thoracic organs.
Many people across the country and here in Louisiana are under the impression that the only place you find asbestos these days is in old buildings. Unfortunately, that may not be the case.
Everyone who has been exposed to asbestos would like to think the stuff is sealed up in our past. The problematic fiber has been implicated in respiratory problems as serious as cancer in the last century, although it has been used in cookery and construction since the days of Ancient Greece.
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.