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Asbestos is often a silent but deadly workplace injury

California construction workers are exposed to numerous hazards while on the job. Many of those dangers are obvious, but at least one could cause a silent but deadly workplace injury that may not manifest for months or years after exposure -- asbestos. Knowing more about this deadly construction material could help prevent exposure to its harmful effects.

The mineral fiber -- which is found in soil and rocks -- had many applications in the past, one of them being in the construction industry. Asbestos was widely used in the past in buildings as insulation because of its flame-retardant properties. It has been found in floor and ceiling tiles, roof shingles and cement products.

Construction workers are most often exposed to asbestos during demolition, repair or remodeling of a structure in which it was used. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, it is only harmful when its fibers are released into the air. This occurs when insulation containing asbestos is somehow damaged or disturbed.

Obviously, the more asbestos that someone is exposed to, the greater the chances it will affect his or her health in the future. Three major health conditions can develop after exposure. Two types of cancer are seen in asbestos-exposure victims -- lung cancer and mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is a cancer that attacks the lining of the lungs, heart, abdomen and chest. Another disease that is not cancer is called asbestosis, which is a debilitating lung condition.

If a workplace injury involving asbestos occurs, you may be eligible for asbestos workers' benefits under the California workers' compensation system. Since it can take months or years for the effects of exposure to manifest, identifying the employer responsible for the exposure can be problematic. It may be beneficial to enlist someone familiar with complex workers' compensation cases to assist you in obtaining benefits.

Source: epa.gov, "Learn About Asbestos", , Sept. 10, 2014

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