People are exposed to asbestos in several ways. In Minnesota, people have often been exposed through work, because products they worked with contain asbestos or they work in an environment, such as a mine, where asbestos may be discovered. Other times, Minnesotans have been exposed to asbestos in their homes, either due to a family member’s contact with asbestos or through commercial products that contain asbestos.
Unfortunately, asbestos is not safe. There is no safe level of exposure to asbestos. Exposure to asbestos, whether at work or at home, can cause mesothelioma, lung cancer or other diseases.
That said, asbestos is most dangerous when its tiny fibers become airborne. These fibers are smaller than the eye can see, but they can be carried in dust. According to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, this dust typically becomes airborne when something disturbs asbestos-containing soil, rock or other products. For example:
- Weathering or erosion of naturally occurring asbestos deposits
- Crushing rock with asbestos deposits
- Handling, crushing or cutting old products containing asbestos, such as during a building renovation or demolition
- Disturbing or handling consumer products contaminated by asbestos (e.g., talc or vermiculite)
- Gardening in soil that naturally contains asbestos
- Cleaning or other activities that could stir up asbestos-containing products or deposits
What can I do to prevent asbestos from becoming airborne?
People who work around asbestos should get proper training on how to handle it and should also wear appropriate personal protective equipment, which includes a particulate mask or ventilator.
People who live in older homes should avoid disturbing materials that could contain asbestos. Unfortunately, there are still a wide variety of products containing asbestos, such as:
- Popcorn ceiling material installed between the 1950s and 1970s
People in older homes should also consider talking to their state or local environmental protection agency or a certified asbestos contractor to have asbestos-containing materials safely removed.
If you believe there is asbestos in your home, garden, or immediate area, consider wetting down the materials to limit airborne dust. This is a short-term solution.
You may not be able to avoid asbestos completely
The unfortunate truth is that far too many employers have allowed their workers to be exposed to asbestos without warning them about the risks. This means that many people in industries that use asbestos are currently at risk for mesothelioma, lung cancer, and other diseases. Other companies sold consumer products that contained asbestos without warning consumers. This continues to happen today.
If you have been diagnosed with an asbestos disease, there is a fair chance you got it without fully understanding the risks. The company that exposed you could owe you compensation for your suffering and losses.