San Diego Asbestos Attorney


Asbestos Exposure, Health Effects & Your Legal Rights

Asbestos, a fibrous, naturally occurring mineral, was formerly a prized material used in construction, insulation and building materials on account of its heat-resistant properties and flexible applications.

But starting in the late 1970s, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has restricted the use of asbestos, and at one time, the agency planned to a near-total ban on the substance. Asbestos remains legal in the United States for a handful of specific uses, but for the thousands of people who have already been exposed to this potentially harmful substance, it may only be a matter of time before they get sick.

That’s because asbestos has been linked to a variety of health problems, including multiple types of cancer and other painful, potentially fatal conditions. The risks of asbestos are so vast and well-known that more than 100 companies have faced asbestos lawsuits and filed for bankruptcy protection as a result.

For individuals and family members of people who have been exposed to asbestos and become sick as a result, a consultation with a qualified asbestos attorney can help ensure justice is done.


Asbestos History & Current Law

Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that can be mined and used for a variety of applications. Historically, these uses have largely been in building and construction, shipbuilding, automotive manufacturing and in the production of paints, coatings, adhesives and plastics.

The mineral consists of fibers that can be split into thin, durable threads that resist heat, fire and chemical exposure and don’t conduct electricity. The versatility of asbestos made it a very valuable product at one time, but the physical nature of the substance also meant that people who were exposed to it could easily inhale or ingest it. They could even unknowingly carry it on their clothes or shoes into their homes and elsewhere.

In the late 1970s, the EPA attempted to ban almost all uses of asbestos, but a 1991 court ruling overturned some aspects of the EPA’s proposed regulations. What the court left in place were rules limiting the use of asbestos in five product categories and barring new uses that might be developed in the future.

Today, all use of asbestos in the following five categories is not permitted in the U.S.:

  • Flooring felt
  • Rollboard
  • Corrugated paper
  • Commercial paper
  • Specialty paper


Asbestos mining no longer takes place in the United States, and 2002 saw the last American asbestos manufacturer close its doors. There are some uses of asbestos that companies legally could still employ in the U.S., but companies have chosen not to. This includes previously approved uses like sealants, millboard, roofing felt and others.


Asbestos Exposure & Lung Diseases

Asbestos is a known cancer-causing agent, or carcinogen, that has also been linked to other serious, potentially fatal conditions. Lung cancer, mesothelioma, asbestosis and more issues have all been linked to exposure to asbestos. 

Let’s look at some of the most common health problems that can result from exposure to this harmful substance:



Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer that is diagnosed in about 3,000 people per year. This cancer affects the linings of the lungs, abdomen and chest cavity as well as many vital internal organs. About 80% of all mesothelioma cases are linked to asbestos, and those most likely to be diagnosed include pipefitters, miners, electricians and Navy veterans. 

This type of cancer can affect the lungs and abdomen, and symptoms include:


  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Painful cough
  • Lumps under chest skin
  • Abdominal pain and swelling
  • Nausea
  • Weight loss



Asbestosis is a chronic respiratory disease caused by exposure to asbestos. The fibers of asbestos become lodged in the lungs, causing scarring and preventing the lungs from expanding and contracting as they should. The disease is not curable, but the rate of progression varies from person to person. Those most likely to develop asbestosis include miners, shipyard workers and boiler operators.

Asbestosis symptoms include:

  • Tightness in the chest
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Cough
  • Chest pain
  • Fingertips and toe that appear wider and rounder than normal (clubbing)


Lung cancer

Lung cancer is the second most commonly diagnosed cancer in the United States today, and while it’s more often associated with tobacco, asbestos exposure also has been linked to lung cancer. Research suggests that asbestos causes about 2-3% of lung cancer deaths, though smoking dramatically increases that risk.

Lung cancer symptoms include:

  • Chest pain
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Wheezing
  • Weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Bloody sputum
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Fatigue or anemia


Pleural disorders

The pleura is a thin lining that cushions and protects the lungs, and exposure to asbestos can thicken this lining, leading to a buildup of fluid (pleural effusions), plaque or calcifications. In addition to direct discomfort and symptoms, pleural disorders may be indicators of a progression to asbestosis, lung cancer or mesothelioma.

Symptoms of asbestos-related pleural disorders include:

  • Chest pain
  • Dry cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Persistent hiccups


Other cancers

Some research suggests that in addition to lung cancer and mesothelioma, asbestos can cause damage to other parts of the body, leading to cancers in the colon, rectum, throat, kidneys, esophagus or gallbladder.


Asbestos Trusts & Your Rights

Hundreds of thousands of successful claims have been made over the past four decades against companies that made and used asbestos, and these claims have a combined value that can be listed in the billions of dollars. More than 50 trusts have been established to pay claims on behalf of now-bankrupt asbestos companies, and the payouts have gone to a variety of victims and their families, including those who were diagnosed with mesothelioma, lung cancer or other cancers, as well as those with asbestosis, pleural disorders or other related issues.

Understanding what’s best for you and your family is a complicated process, and a consultation with a qualified environmental lawyer is the best first step you can take. If you or a loved one were exposed to asbestos and later became sick, please contact us for more information.


References, Did the EPA Just Approve Use of Asbestos in the U.S.? (2019.) Retrieved from

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Frequently Asked Questions Regarding EPA’s Final Asbestos Rule. (2019.) Retrieved from

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Asbestos Toxicity How Should Patients Exposed to Asbestos Be Treated and Managed? (2014.) Retrieved from

Oxford Academic, Estimating the Number of Asbestos-related Lung Cancer Deaths in Great Britain from 1980 to 2000. (2006.) Retrieved from

RAND Corp., Asbestos Bankruptcy Trusts. (2010.) Retrieved from