Americans are vulnerable to asbestos-related diseases, while often unknowingly exposed to it. Asbestos was once used widely as construction materials, mixed with concrete for buildings as it provides insulation and other fire-proof properties. Upon renovation, buildings built in the 1950s are discovered to have asbestos within flooring and pipes. Fortunately, the use of asbestos dropped precipitously in the 1980s.
Not only do plumbers, electricians, and other maintenance workers face the possibility of asbestos inhalation in the workspace, but residents of certain infested buildings do too. When the asbestos-containing materials are disturbed or damaged, the materials release asbestos particles and fibers into the air. Asbestos particles are highly toxic when inhaled and can cause mesothelioma cancer or lung cancer.
BEAR engineers maintain an expertise on the prevalence and impact of asbestos and have repeatedly provided expert testimony in related cases.
For example, in 2002 BEAR engineers took on the case about one individual who worked on insulation of turbine and consequently breathed a considerable amount of asbestos particles, ultimately developing an asbestos cancer. The oil refinery did not fully acknowledge safety standards of the American Society for Testing and Materials when it considered the insulation materials. Such a lack in protocol resulted in an overall fail of corporate ethics.
Many workers who are exposed to asbestos in the workspace seek compensation from manufacturers. We use a light microscopy and a scanning electron microscope to determine if the sample of the problematic section of the workspace contains asbestos fibers. Figure 1 is the microscopic image of asbestos.
Figure 1. Scanning Electron Microscopic (SEM) image of asbestos.
In the U.S., three types of asbestos have been in use. Chrysotile, usually referred to as white asbestos, is the most common and accounts for 95% of all asbestos in use. Amosite, or brown asbestos, and Crocidolite, or blue asbestos, each account for 2%. Workers exposed to the very common white asbestos have shown little health effects. Blue asbestos, in contrast, has caused the most documented health effects; even non-occupational exposure has caused significant mortality. Figure 2 shows the image of the asbestosis inside of lung.
Figure 2. Micrograph demonstrating asbestosis of the lung (ferruginous bodies). H&E stain.