For years, exposure to asbestos was common in many industries, including on construction sites, in shipyards, in factories, and in automotive repair shops. Asbestos was eventually banned for most uses because it causes a number of different kinds of health problems for those who have been exposed to it. Of these, among the most serious is asbestosis.
Asbestosis is a respiratory disease caused by inhaling asbestos fibers. It is a disease that develops slowly, taking between 10 and 40 years to develop. Because of this slow onset, victims often don't know that they have it until years after they were exposed.
The inhaled asbestos fibers irritate the lungs, causing an inflammation. In an attempt to protect themselves, the lungs form a kind of scar tissue around the fiber, called "fibrosis." The fibrosis affects the victim's lung function, leading to shortness of breath and the feeling of not being able to catch one's breath. The lungs are progressively less able to take in oxygen and expel carbon dioxide. Among the other effects of asbestosis are the presence of a chronic cough, the inability to perform as much physical activity due to a lack of oxygen, chronic chest pain, and congestive heart failure. Over the longer term, asbestosis can lead to disability or even death.
Asbestosis can also lead to a kind of cancer known as "mesothelioma" or to lung cancer. The exact connection between lung cancer and asbestosis is not well understood, but most doctors believe that exposure to certain kinds of asbestos can increase a person's chances of getting lung cancer, especially if that person is also a smoker.
Before its symptoms become pronounced, asbestosis may be detected only by using X-rays or CT scans of the lungs, which will show the scarring and thickening of the lung tissue that is characteristic of the disease. Many people are thus not diagnosed until it is too late, because until they have symptoms, they see no need to have their lungs examined.
If you learn that you suffer from asbestosis, it is important to consult with a qualified lawyer. It may be possible to recover compensation for injuries due to asbestos exposure, but it takes an experienced attorney to understand how to bring such a suit.
An asbestosis lawsuit often has to name dozens and dozens of asbestos manufacturers and employers as defendants because it is hard to know who is directly responsible for the injuries. Proof of an asbestosis claim also requires gathering complex medical evidence and using it to prove the connection between the asbestos exposure and the injuries suffered. In a case that complex, it does not pay to do it alone.