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For the last two weeks the Asbestos Legal Center has had their thoughts and prayers with a client, who has been struggling to leave the hospital after undergoing surgery to remove malignant pleural mesothelioma tumors caused, in part, by exposure to asbestos containing drywall. Malignant pleural mesothelioma is a cancer of the lining of the lungs that develops ten to thirty years after exposure to asbestos. There is no cure for malignant pleural mesothelioma. Asbestos exposure also causes lung cancer and asbestosis, a chronic scarring of the lungs.
In honor of this client’s battle with malignant pleural mesothelioma, the Asbestos Legal Center has decide to create this blog article, warning the public about the hidden danger of asbestos contained in drywall sheetrock found in many of the homes and structures in the United States.
Drywall, also commonly referred to as sheetrock, is a wall panel made of two sheets of paper with a gypsum mineral compound pressed between them. Invented in 1916, it’s use as a construction material for walls and ceiling became popular in the 1940’s and continuing after World War II. Until the late 1970’s, many companies manufactured drywall that contained asbestos. Unfortunately drywall containing asbestos is found in many of the homes that were built prior to 1980 in the United States. Today, workers and families are at risk for exposure to asbestos contained in this drywall when performing home remodel projects that require cutting into the wall, releasing asbestos dust into the air.
The OSHA safety limit for exposure to asbestos is .1 fiber per cubic centimeter. To put the OSHA safety limit in perspective, one needs to know that asbestos fibers are microscopic in size. 20,000 asbestos fibers are smaller than a grain of rice. Put simply, what all of this means is, if you can see asbestos dust with the naked eye you are being exposed to a level of asbestos that is greater than the OSHA safety limit.
If your home contains drywall that contains asbestos, you can hire a contractor who has undergone training and is specially licensed in asbestos abatement, to remove it. Safely removing asbestos containing drywall requires air sampling, sealing off the area, and the use of specialized equipment such as vacuums or fans. The asbestos abatement contractor will also wear specialized breathing protection. But there is good reason for all of this: asbestos is dangerous!
Moreover, drywall is not the only building material that contained asbestos prior to 1980. Asbestos was also contained in other construction products, such as joint compounds, acoustic popcorn ceilings, floor tiles, stucco, cement, roofing materials, and sewer pipe. For that reason it is advisable, whenever performing a home remodel project on a home built before 1980, to have a licensed environmental materials testing company come to your home and take samples for asbestos prior to beginning work. The extra cost could well save your life, or the life of your family members, in the future.
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