The word asbestos has become a byword for something suspiciously dangerous. The last five decades have featured the substance on lists of hazardous materials. But much of human history before then featured asbestos cookware, insulation or industrial materials.
In many ways, the advantages of asbestos in materials science are the same reason it is dangerous to humans. The word covers a variety of materials that are strong, long-lasting and resistant to fire and heat. But the crystal fibers that break loose from solid tiles or panels are long-lasting enough to stay in the lungs and other thoracic organs of the human body.
Asbestos insulation and conduits were pulled off the market in the last half of the 20th century. But they remain in several homes, office buildings and maritime vessels in Louisiana and elsewhere in the United States. Demolitions and renovations can endanger workers and nearby people when clouds of dust contain asbestos fibers.
There was a rash of lawsuits against producers and users of asbestos products by people suffering lung and heart illnesses connected by doctors to asbestos. Mesothelioma, a type of cancer occurring in the lining around the lungs or heart, seems to be exclusively related to asbestos exposure.
Although the number of these lawsuits has reduced, long-term exposure is still possible and may require people to seek financial damages to help with medical expenses. An attorney can help with a review of the medical evidence and the identification of companies that may be liable for exposure. No one should have to deal with the consequences of asbestos alone.