What is Asbestos?
Asbestos is a naturally-occurring mineral that is classified as a known human carcinogen. Asbestos causes mesothelioma, lung cancer, asbestosis, and other cancers, and most people are not diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease until decades after the exposure.
Asbestos Exposure On the Job
Asbestos was once referred to as the “miracle mineral” for its resistance to fire, heat, water, chemicals, and electricity. As a result, it was widely used in products and trades including:
- Merchant marine and naval vessels
- Maintenance mechanics
- Maintenance mechanics
- Aircraft mechanics
- Chemical processing
- and more
Asbestos does not have an odor or taste and cannot be detected by a simple visual examination, making it even more dangerous. Workers across industries were exposed firsthand at work, and asbestos fibers also attached to their clothing and person, exposing their spouses and families at home.
Chicago Trade Unions & Asbestos Exposure
Cooney and Conway has a strong affiliation with the construction trade unions and the work we do representing their members.
The trades with the highest degree of asbestos exposure between the 1950s and early 1980s are:
- Insulators (aka asbestos workers or heat and frost workers) – Chicago Local 17
- Pipefitters – Chicago Local 597
- Plumbers – Chicago Local 130
- Sheet Metal Workers – Chicago Local 73
- Boilermakers – Chicago Local 1
- Steelworkers – Locals 1010, 1011, 1014, 1066 (all in/around Northwest Indiana)
- Iron Workers – Chicago Local 1
We also represent those who have worked as electricians, carpenters, drywallers, plasterers, latherers, tile setters, shipyard workers, millwrights, and many more.
Asbestos Exposure in the Military
A large number (in excess of 60%) of our clients served in the military. Those clients who served in the Navy were subjected to significant exposure to asbestos while working below deck in the engineering spaces (boiler/fire rooms and engine rooms).
Beginning in the 1930s and through 1980, those in the military may have been exposed to asbestos, as every branch used some sort of asbestos product in that time. Veterans make up nearly a third of all mesothelioma diagnoses, and because symptoms can appear up to 50 years post-exposure, more are going to continue to develop mesothelioma.
Those in the Navy were among those most exposed during that time, with naval vessels containing asbestos being a common hazard. Those both onboard and in shipyards are at risk of developing mesothelioma or other asbestos-related illnesses.
Asbestos Exposure in Other Occupations
The list above shows just how many workers have been exposed to asbestos while on the job, and that list isn't even exhaustive. Because of the prevalence of asbestos in so many products, millions of people were exposed in the 20th century. Regulations around asbestos didn't start until the 1970s, and it wasn't until decades later that the most aggressive regulations were enacted. And, although regulations today are meant to protect workers, asbestos still exists, and asbestos exposure can still occur.
It can take years for mesothelioma symptoms to develop. Those who may have encountered asbestos at work decades ago are still at risk of getting mesothelioma today. In particular, trades that deal with buildings or ships—structures that can still have asbestos—which include construction workers, firefighters, shipyard workers, or factory workers, in addition to miners and steel mill workers are at a higher risk of exposure even now.
Asbestos in Products
As was mentioned, asbestos was used in a huge number of products across many industries. Building materials were some of the most common, and are items containing asbestos may still be in structures today. Beyond building materials such as insulation and popcorn ceilings, asbestos was used in:
- Electrical components
- Drywall and roofing materials
- Fireproofing materials, including textiles
- Vinyl products
Additionally, consumer products often contained asbestos. Talcum powder is one of the best-known products, but the reach of asbestos is much farther than that. Consumer products that may have contained asbestos include:
- Hair dryers
- Kitchen textiles such as pot holders
- Fake snow
- Car parts
Again, this list is not exhaustive, but it does give some indication of just how prevalent the substance once was. Asbestos' durability, low cost, and fire-resistant qualities (among others) made it a popular material for a number of uses. Today, asbestos can be found in older products that are still in use, and, more recently, in talcum powder and some makeup products.
Products Known to Contain Asbestos
Cooney and Conway has experience in litigation regarding asbestos contaminated talc, particularly body powders and make ups (specifically loose face powder). There are many examples of products in this category that have been shown to contain asbestos fiber. In 1976, the New York Times found ten of the nineteen products tested contained up to 20 percent asbestos. Products in their investigation included ZBT Baby Powder with Baby Oil, Cashmere Bouquet Body Talc, Coty Airspun Face Powder, and Rosemary Talc. These examples actually tested the highest, with ZBT Baby Powder containing the most out of all the products tested.
The products in the New York Times investigation aren't the only ones consumers have to worry about. The following are just some of the manufacturers and brands that have had their vintage products recently test positive for asbestos contamination:
- Avon Unforgettable Perfumed Talc
- Avon Timeless Powder
- Cashmere Bouquet
- Chanel Cocco Mademoiselle
- Coty Air Spun
- Coty Emeraude Dusting Powder
- Desert Flower Powder
- Estée Lauder Youth Dew Dusting Powder
- Friendship Garden Dusting Powder
- Johnson & Johnson Baby Powder
- Johnson & Johnson Shower to Shower Body Powder
- Shulton Old Spice
Impact of Asbestos Exposure
Any exposure to asbestos can lead to mesothelioma and other debilitating or deadly diseases. Those who have possibly been exposed to asbestos can undergo regular medical monitoring and screening. While there is no cure for mesothelioma, the medical and scientific communities have made great strides in treatment options to reduce painful symptoms and help improve longevity and quality of care for patients living with the deadly disease.
Individuals and families who have been victims of exposure to asbestos may be entitled to compensation. Since the early 1970s, the Chicago law firm of Cooney & Conway has been a respected national law firm in the practice of asbestos and mesothelioma litigation.
If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease and would like to learn more about your legal rights, our highly experienced attorneys can be reached by calling 800-322-5573 for a free consultation. You may also fill out the case evaluation form at the bottom of this page and we will give you a call.