Asbestos exposure can create several serious health problems for many people. Inhaled fibers from asbestos remain in the body, which cannot break them down. Over time, those fibers can develop into serious health problems, including asbestosis, mesothelioma, and cancer.
Unfortunately, the symptoms of asbestos exposure may not show up until many years after the initial exposure. In some cases, it can take as much as 60 years for patients to start showing symptoms of mesothelioma, for example.
Florida had over 18,000 asbestos-related deaths in a 19-year span. A mesothelioma diagnosis can occur at any time, particularly if patients faced asbestos exposure early in life or for a long period of time. However, the mean age at diagnosis hovers at 72. Florida’s high population of retirees may contribute to the area’s high percentage of mesothelioma-related illness and death. However, dangerous asbestos sites in Florida may also increase the risk to Florida residents. If you've been exposed to asbestos, contact Dolman Law Group's Florida mesothelioma lawyers to learn more about your right to compensation following asbestos exposure.
Where Does Asbestos Exposure Occur?
Asbestos exposure generally occurs in one of three ways.
Primary Occupational Exposure
Primary asbestos exposure occurs when a worker faces direct exposure to asbestos due to his occupation. Asbestos saw a lot of use in construction and manufacturing before the discovery that asbestos exposure could lead to an increased risk of cancer and other devastating conditions, including asbestosis. Primary occupational exposure may have occurred in several dangerous asbestos sites across Florida.
Florida shipyards moved a high volume of asbestos for use in other industries. Shipyard workers may have ended up exposed to asbestos regularly as they helped move cargo throughout the shipyard. Even workers who did not work directly in the transportation of asbestos may have found themselves exposed to asbestos as it moved throughout the shipyard or onto the ships.
Shipyards in Florida with reported asbestos exposure include:
- Atlantic Dry Dock
- Bellinger Shipyard
- Gulf Marine Repair
- Hendry Corporation
- Hooker’s Point Yard
- Offshore Shipbuilding
While Florida state records list these specific shipyards as spots where asbestos exposure may have occurred, other shipyards may also have handled asbestos-containing materials regularly. A lawyer can help identify where asbestos exposure may have occurred, including locating records showing whether a shipyard transported asbestos.
Power generation plants often used asbestos for its insulating properties. Working with that insulation directly, including installing it or moving it around, can lead to considerable asbestos exposure, which may, in turn, increase the risk of mesothelioma or another asbestos-related diagnosis.
Power plants in Florida that reportedly used asbestos insulation include:
- Crist Power Plant
- St. Lucie Nuclear Power Plant
- U.S. Sugar and Vero Beach Municipal Power Plant
- Port Everglade Power Plant of Florida Power and Light
- Anclote Power Plant
- Big Bend Power Plant
- Cape C. Fort Pierce Municipal Power Plant
Other power plants across Florida may have used asbestos insulation, posing a substantial risk to anyone who worked on those sites. Workers may have worked directly with the insulation during installation or moved asbestos insulation and other asbestos-containing materials around as they worked to maintain the site.
Asbestos fibers naturally occur in coal mines. Unfortunately, before the 1980s, mine operators in Florida did not recognize those potential dangers, which means that miners did not take safety precautions to avoid the risk of exposure. Miners typically continued with their normal work, including stirring up those fibers and inhaling them without any safety gear or masks to help reduce or prevent exposure.
As a result, coal miners throughout the Florida area may have faced considerable asbestos exposure, including workers at Mulberry Phosphate Mine. Miners may also have left the mines with asbestos fibers on their clothing or skin, leading to further exposure.
Military Service Members
Military service members may have faced asbestos exposure due to the use of asbestos in several sites. Military workers may have installed or worked with asbestos insulation directly.
That may include workers at:
- Naval Air Station Jacksonville
- Naval Air Station Key West
- Pensacola Naval Air Station
- Whiting Field Naval Air Station
- Mayport Naval Air Station
- The United States Southern Command
Service members and civilian workers who served at those sites may have faced an increased risk of asbestos exposure. In addition, workers may have dealt with asbestos exposure during construction periods at those bases, including planned renovations. Military and civilian workers might have continued with their jobs as usual, without using protective gear or other equipment, because no one recognized the dangers they might face.
Construction workers across the Florida area may have faced asbestos exposure regularly as they installed asbestos insulation in the buildings they built and repaired. Construction workers may have faced asbestos exposure risk even after government regulation discontinued the use of asbestos in buildings due to its dangers since construction workers often end up involved in the demolition process.
Asbestos insulation appears in buildings throughout Florida, including both residential and business construction. Both Florida State University and the Kennedy Space Center have asbestos in their construction, meaning that any work on those facilities without proper safety gear can increase asbestos exposure risk.
Construction workers before the 1980s worked with asbestos frequently as they installed insulation, popcorn ceilings, tiles, and other materials that contained asbestos. While asbestos insulation is one of the most well-known types of asbestos, cutting into tiles or working with popcorn ceilings could also send those fibers into the air, where workers could quickly inhale them. Many workers did not realize the dangers those materials could pose, which means they may have faced exposure on a regular basis.
In some cases, agricultural workers may have faced exposure to asbestos due to its presence in farm equipment and building materials. Agricultural workers often end up taking on a variety of tasks, including quickly repairing their own buildings, which could mean they end up exposed to asbestos in the course of the business day. Vermiculite, used in soil mixes and conditioners, may also contain asbestos due to the potential for contamination in the mine. Workers who used those substances regularly before government regulations put checks and balances in place may have faced considerable asbestos exposure.
Secondary Occupational Exposure
Secondary occupational exposure to asbestos occurs when someone who works directly with asbestos fibers contaminates someone else. Construction and mining workers, for example, might have asbestos fibers on their clothing when they come home. A spouse or child could breathe in those fibers while hugging the other person, sharing furniture with them, or even doing the laundry.
Over the course of a long career in mining, construction, or manufacturing, a worker could bring a considerable volume of asbestos fibers home, leading to significant long-term risks. Many family members of workers who faced a high degree of asbestos exposure may develop symptoms of mesothelioma or other asbestos-related conditions, even when those family members never worked with asbestos directly themselves.
When someone who never worked with asbestos or who never lived with someone who worked with asbestos faces a mesothelioma or asbestos-related diagnosis, it could occur because of non-occupational exposure. Typically, non-occupational exposure occurs because someone lives or works in a building contaminated by asbestos.
Asbestos-containing buildings do not automatically pose a danger. Once a material containing asbestos has finished construction, it does not pose a health risk. That includes ceilings, tiles, roofs, or insulation in a sealed building. However, when demolition or a destructive event, including fire or flooding, causes those things to break down, it can result in asbestos exposure for people living and working in those buildings. Helping with cleanup, rather than bringing in a professional, can cause workers to face increased risk.
Is Ongoing Asbestos Exposure a Problem in Florida?
In July 1989, the EPA banned ongoing asbestos use in new products. The ban, however, only included the use of new products that used asbestos for the first time, not products already in use. Historic buildings throughout Florida may still have asbestos-containing products in use. Those products, including popcorn ceilings, ceiling tiles, and flooring, do not pose a significant danger to people who live and work in those buildings. However, they may pose a problem during certain conditions.
During renovations, demolition specialists may end up inadvertently exposing asbestos fibers. As a result, people might need to stay out of the building while renovations occur. In addition, renovations in buildings with asbestos-containing materials may require special attention from experts since removing or breaking up items that contain asbestos, including popcorn ceilings, tiles, and insulation can release those fibers into the air.
During natural disasters, damage to asbestos-containing buildings can release those asbestos fibers into the air. People working in those areas, including those helping with cleanup, may need to wear specialty equipment to reduce the risk of asbestos exposure. In some cases, property owners may need to bring in experts to help take care of cleanup, especially in cases of considerable damage to the property. Natural disasters may also include floods, which can cause enough damage to release asbestos fibers that could cause hazards if inhaled.
Often, fire damage can cause enough damage to the property to release asbestos fibers. To help reduce risk, asbestos experts should take care of the cleanup. In some cases, first responders at fire scenes may inhale asbestos fibers as they attempt to rescue people trapped in the burning building and get the flames put out. People in the building at the time of the fire may also end up inhaling asbestos due to the damage to the building. Firefighters may face asbestos exposure risks due to the dangers of their jobs.
In some cases, property owners may choose to demolish non-historic buildings that contain asbestos entirely. However, those buildings may require careful evaluation from asbestos removal experts to ensure that asbestos fibers do not pose a danger to those in the area. The demolition process may also require containment since large-scale demolition can lead to significant damage and the release of a large quantity of asbestos fibers into the air around the property.
How Much Asbestos Exposure Does It Take to Cause Mesothelioma?
Many people find themselves wondering how much asbestos exposure it would take to cause mesothelioma or other asbestos-related disorders. The body cannot break down any quantity of asbestos fibers, which means that even minor asbestos exposure, including exposure that happens only once, still has the potential to cause mesothelioma or other related conditions.
However, people who have faced more exposure, including people who worked with asbestos on a regular basis, may have a higher risk of developing mesothelioma or may develop it sooner than patients who did not face the same degree of exposure.
It can take between 20 and 60 years to develop mesothelioma after asbestos exposure. Often, patients exposed to asbestos do not realize the full extent of the damage or the associated dangers until many years after the accident. However, once symptoms do set in, patients may notice that the condition progresses quickly.
Did You Face Asbestos Exposure in a Dangerous Asbestos Site in Florida?
Asbestos exposure can result in several devastating conditions and diagnoses, including mesothelioma, cancer, or asbestosis. Many conditions, including asbestosis and mesothelioma, can only result from asbestos exposure: you cannot get mesothelioma any other way. If you have faced a devastating diagnosis due to asbestos exposure at a dangerous site in Florida, you may deserve compensation for the damages you have sustained.
A lawyer can help you determine where you likely faced exposure, who failed to take proper safety precautions, and how you should best pursue compensation for asbestos exposure and the conditions you may have developed. Contact a mass tort lawyer in Florida to learn more about your right to compensation following asbestos exposure.