Asbestos is a poisonous mineral that has negatively affected the health of millions of Americans. It was first discovered in the United States around the time of the Industrial Revolution, and was soon after put to use as a base for hundreds of different products. Early research into the mineral showed it to be strong, durable and resistant to heat and fire. Since asbestos was easy to find in large quantities and inexpensive to mine, it was soon considered to be one of the most beneficial natural resources in the country. Sadly it was nearly a century until further research proved the mineral to be toxic, and by then it had been responsible for causing people all throughout the nation to become very ill, and claiming the lives of a great number of individuals who worked with or close to the hazardous material.
Insulation was one of the earliest products that was made with asbestos. The mineral's ability to regulate heat made it ideal as an insulating material, and massive quantities of asbestos were used in almost every piece of insulation for years. Ship building and repair facilities such as the USX Shipyard in Virginia used a great amount of the contaminated insulation to help maintain the internal temperature of large pieces of equipment that were used on a daily basis. While the machinery was in operation, small bits of asbestos dust was very likely to separate from the insulation and float into the air, allowing for the workers to breathe it in without even realizing it.
When people inhale asbestos, they will very likely not know they have ingested a poison for many years. It can take more than two decades for the symptoms of internal damage to become noticeable, but once the toxic dust settles into the respiratory system it will start to scar healthy tissue and eventually cause painful breathing disorders, serious ailments and several types of lung cancer. Mesothelioma is perhaps the most well known cancerous disease that is often attributed to asbestos inhalation.
Exposure to asbestos can lead to painful, untreatable and sometimes fatal ailments. Anyone who spent time working at a facility such as the USX Shipyard should contact their healthcare provider immediately and request an examination.
Last modified: December 28, 2010.