Workplace Exposure: Office Jobs May Expose Employees to Deadly Asbestos
December 3, 2010
Asbestos in an office building can be harmful to occupants if the dangerous fibers are disturbed. What constitutes a disturbance strong enough to do harm to occupants? Even an act as simple as running a new telephone line in an asbestos-laden building could cause disturbance of the deadly particles. The risk to a typical office worker of getting mesothelioma is not near the risk of someone working in several industries that expose workers to high amounts of asbestos, but the danger still exists.
As the predominance of asbestos lawsuits continue to increase, more and more Americans and people in other countries as well, are becoming especially leery of the dangers of asbestos exposure and are turning to mesothelioma lawyers when they are exposed. Asbestos fibers can be disturbed by demolition, construction, utility installation or operation, repair, and maintenance activities performed on a building. Most employees who hold desk jobs and do not come in direct contact with asbestos fibers in pipes, walls or ceiling tiles don’t expect to have a risk of developing mesothelioma.
Depending on the specific types of asbestos fibers present at your workplace, the risk to employees varies. An asbestos fiber will break down into smaller and smaller particles the more it is disturbed and with each disturbance the particles disperse into the air. The more friable a product is that contains asbestos, the higher the odds of the dangerous particles escaping into the air. Friability refers to how soft the product is and its ability to be broken down into smaller particles.
When there are suspected asbestos particles in a building, they will be assessed based on the current condition of the asbestos and the potential of future disturbance, damage, or erosion. Assessors will also identify the type of asbestos and the percentage used in the material or product. Other factors involved in determining the danger of the suspected asbestos are: the level of accessibility by building occupants and maintenance workers, signs of water damage, amount of vibration of the material under normal operating conditions, and the activity level in the suspected area. Abatement may be needed if there are missing sections of sprayed-on fireproofing or insulation, asbestos fallen on surrounding surfaces, or loose pieces of asbestos-containing materials.
Since there is not a known level of exposure to asbestos deemed safe, it is recommended to avoid any type of exposure to the deadly particles known to cause mesothelioma. If you suspect that you work in an office building that contains asbestos, it is important that a reputable abatement agency is contacted and depending on the length of time you may have been exposed, you may want to seek medical advice and advice from a mesothelioma attorney. Keep in mind the symptoms of mesothelioma are not usually identified until several decades after exposure so even if you don’t feel symptoms, you could already have inhaled enough asbestos particles to cause mesothelioma.
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