What is asbestos and why is it a danger in Michigan workplaces?

Workers across the state of Michigan and in various industries including construction and automobile repair may at some time in their careers encounter asbestos. What is asbestos, and why is it dangerous?

Essentially, asbestos is a group of minerals that were widely used in years past because they were resistant to both corrosion and hot temperatures. Asbestos was used as a building material, in flooring and to insulate pipes. It was also used in the automobile industry on clutches and brakes in automobiles.

A worker could encounter asbestos in a variety of settings. For example, construction workers renovating a building may find that it was insulated with asbestos. Mechanics working on repairs to a vehicle’s clutch or braking system may also encounter asbestos. In addition, manufacturers involved in the production of asbestos-containing products are exposed to the dangerous minerals.

However, exposure to asbestos can make a worker very sick. If a worker inhales asbestos fibers, it can cause a condition known as asbestosis in the worker’s lungs that could cause a worker to become disabled or could even kill the worker. In addition, inhaling asbestos can cause mesothelioma or lung cancer, both of which often prove fatal.

Because of this, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration imposes strict standards regarding asbestos in the workplace. Personal protective equipment may be required to help workers avoid becoming ill from exposure to asbestos. Workers’ health may also need to be monitored. In addition, there are legal limits regarding how much asbestos can be in the air (although no amount is entirely safe), as well as time limits in which a worker can be exposed to asbestos.

Workers who become ill due to asbestos exposure may need to apply for workers’ compensation benefits or Social Security disability benefits, depending on their situation. These benefits could be essential in helping the worker stay on their feet financially while they seek the medical treatment they need to counter these aggressive diseases.

Source: OSHA.gov, “Asbestos,” accessed on July 26, 2015