Frequently Asked Questions about Asbestos

This page contains answers to common questions asked about asbestos. For more detailed information, links to other sites are provided. Further, detailed information about some aspects of asbestos litigation may be found on other pages of this website.Finally, for answers to additional questions about asbestos, you might want to visit the website maintained by the Oklahoma Department of Labor Asbestos Department.

What is asbestos?

The generic name "asbestos" belongs to a group of minerals called "asbestiform" minerals. Asbestos is a fibrous material which is mined from serpentine rock. Basically, rock was mined and crushed. When the rock was crushed, fibrous stands of asbestos were extracted from the rock. The strands were put in bags and shipped to manufacturing facilities were the asbestos was used as an ingredient in insulation and other materials. The three most commonly used forms of asbestos that were used in product manufacturing were:

A picture of asbestos in its raw fiber state is below.

Chrysotile asbestos is known as serpentine because it is found in serpentine rock. Amosite asbestos is an amphibole. Although asbestos products have not been used in construction since approximately 1975, the products in place present a clear danger to men involved in repair work in the demolition of structures containing asbestos products.

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What diseases are caused by asbestos exposure?

Asbestos diseases may be placed in two categories. Cancerous and noncancerous. Asbestos is a potent carcinogen. The primary forms of cancer of the lung which have been linked to asbestos exposure are:

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How long does it take asbestos diseases to develope after exposure?

There is a latency period between the time of exposure to asbestos and the manifestation of asbestos diseases that generally varies between several years and several decades. Many asbestos cancers will not arise in a victim until twenty years or more after first exposure to asbestos. Typically, asbestosis or pleural plaques will not occur until at least ten to twenty years after first exposure. However, the time for a disease to develop may be longer or shorter, depending in the degree of exposure a person sustained, and individual susceptibility.

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Is lung cancer in asbestos victims caused by asbestos or by smoking?

If an individual smokes cigarettes, that person increases his or her risk of lung cancer by an approximate figure of tens times greater than the general population. However, if a person smokes and is exposed to asbestos, that risk may increase to as many as fifty to one hundred times greater than the general population. Although asbestos was sold to smokers and nonsmokers alike, the industry never advised workers handling asbestos of the dramatic effect asbestos exposure would have on increasing the risk of lung cancer. The asbestos industry never warned workers that asbestos by itself, or in combination with tobacco smoke could cause lung cancer. The combined effect of asbestos acting with tobacco smoke is called synergism.

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What types of jobs are considered the most dangerous as to asbestos disease?

Asbestos diseases are said to follow the trail of exposure. That means that wherever people have received asbestos exposure, regardless of their trade, age, sex or race, they are at risk of cancer and other diseases. Certain occupations, however, are known to be those where risk of exposure to asbestos is great, and the numbers of people in such occupations contracting asbestos disease are high. Some examples follow:

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Have there been asbestos class actions which I can join and receive money?

Probably not. Two national class actions involving asbestos were settled in the trial courts in the past two years. However, certain objectors appealed the settlements, said the cases were not proper under class action law, and obtained Supreme Court reversal of the settlements. Presently, there are no national asbestos class action settlements paying money to asbestos victims. The only "national settlements" which might be available are those which have been approved in Bankruptcy Courts as part of a liquidation or reorganization plan for companies formerly selling asbestos. For more information on asbestos class actions click here.

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I heard many companies have gone bankrupt. Is there still money available to compensate victims?

It is true that a number of asbestos companies have gone bankrupt. Is is also true that some of those bankruptcies were planned contrivances attempting to defraud asbestos victims of payments for their injuries. Some of the companies that filed bankruptcy engaged in improper transfers of their assets prior to the bankruptcy filing in an attempt to avoid payments for the deaths and disease they caused. A number of the bankruptcy cases have taken years to resolve while lawsuits were filed in bankruptcy court to force a return of assets taken from the companies.

Despite what you may have heard, compensation is still available for deserving victims in most instances. First of all, a number of the bankruptcies have resulted in asbestos compensation trusts being created to pay claims. Funds from a number of these trusts may be available if proper claims for compensation are filed. Further, a number of companies that sold asbestos products are not in bankruptcy and are paying claims as they are resolved in the court system.

The following asbestos companies are know to have filed petitions in bankruptcy court. Some of these companies are paying claims through trusts set up as a result of the bankruptcy proceedings: