Over the past 20 years, environmental laws covering hazardous waste, toxic substances, and air and water pollution have become more complex and stringent. Even with these measures, however, there continues to be thousands of injuries, lawsuits, and deaths every year caused by hazardous environmental factors. The most common types of environmental pollution are air pollution, water contamination, chemical poisoning, toxic waste, oil spills, benzene exposure, asbestos, and lead poisoning.
About Mesothelioma and Asbestos Exposure:
Mesothelioma is an extremely rare, aggressive cancer associated with asbestos exposure. The risk of asbestos-related diseases increases with increased exposure to the harmful substance. Victims may, however, develop mesothelioma after only brief or indirect exposure. Family members may develop mesothelioma as a result of exposure to asbestos particles on clothes or hair. One of the Top Ten Settlements of 2010 involved a woman who contracted asbestos after handling her husband's asbestos-infested laundry.
Asbestos related deaths are most prominent in the state of California. The industries in the U.S. that are most closely associated with asbestos exposure have been shipbuilding industries, industrial and chemical plants, petroleum refineries, electric and power companies, and construction companies.
What is asbestos?
Asbestos is a mineral highly resistant to heat, electrical, and chemical damage. The Environmental Protections Agency (EPA) estimated that almost all of America’s 107,000 primary and second schools and a majority of the Nation’s 733,000 commercial buildings used asbestos and asbestos-related substances “extensively.” Asbestos was also used in industrial products including cement, pipes, brake linings, ceiling tiles, roof shingles, flooring products, sealants, textiles, and insulation. An estimated 100,000 asbestos-related deaths may have resulted from the shipbuilding industry, which employed an estimated 4.3 million people during the Second World War.
Asbestos minerals separate into microscopic-size particles that float in the air and are easily inhaled or swallowed. Although asbestos was banned from the market, it is still used in some industrial processes where a resistance to high temperatures is necessary.
How does Asbestos Exposure Lead to Mesothelioma?
When asbestos particles are inhaled, they are unable to be excreted. Unable to leave the body, asbestos particles often lodge themselves in the mesothelium tissue, which lines the body’s internal organs, including the heart, lungs, and abdomen.
About Lead Poisoning and Exposure
Lead poisoning is the most common environmental illness affecting California children. You can be exposed to lead in air, water, soil, food, and consumer products. Lead is a highly toxic heavy metal that is used in a large array of products because of its abundance, low cost, and physical properties. Some of the most common lead products include paint, ceramics, pipes, solders, gasoline, batteries, and cosmetics. Since 1980, federal and state regulations have limited the use of lead, but lead can still be found in many older houses, buildings, and products. The most common sources of lead exposure in the United States are lead-based paint in older homes, contaminated soil, household dust, drinking water, lead crystal, and lead-glazed pottery.
Lead exposure is very dangerous and can cause severe and permanent bodily damage ranging from behavioral problems and learning disabilities, to seizures and death. Children are most at risk. According to studies, children exposed to lead may develop hyperactivity; deficits in fine motor function, hand-eye coordination, and reaction time; and lowered performance on intelligence tests.
Although children appear more susceptible to lead poisoning, adults are also at risk. Chronic lead exposure can result in increased blood pressure, decreased fertility, cataracts, nerve disorders, muscle and joint pain, and memory or concentration problems.
What are symptoms of lead poisoning?
Common symptoms of lead poisoning include: abdominal pain, headache, anemia, irritability, and in severe cases seizures, coma, and death. Other symptoms may include headaches, difficulty sleeping, loss of appetite, and loss of developmental skills in children.
Lead poisoning does build up slowly over time, so its effects may not be noticed immediately, and there may not be any obvious symptoms. Over time, even low levels of lead exposure can harm a child’s mental development. The higher the level of lead in an individual's blood stream, the worse the health problems.
Benzene is a liquid hydrocarbon, used in manufacturing and as a solvent, that has been shown to increase an individual's risk of developing leukemia and other health problems. Benzene can be found in plastics, resins, rubber, paint and synthetic fibers, and still ranks in the top 20 chemicals for production volume, even though there are laws that now limit the amount of benzene used in factories. Although employers are required to limit their employee's exposure to benzene, workers who are not properly protected can experience severe health problems by ingesting, inhaling, or coming into contact with benzene.
Why is Benzene Harmful?
Benzene is associated with acute myeloid leukemia, also known as acute myelocytic leukemia or acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) and non-Hodgkins lymphoma. The harmful hydrocarbon stops cells from functioning properly and can damage the immune system by changing blood levels of antibodies and causing the loss of white blood cells. Length of time of exposure, as well as the age and medical condition of the exposed person, determine the seriousness of benzene exposure.
What are Signs of Benzene Poisoning?
Breathing in high levels of benzene may cause:
- rapid or irregular heartbeat
- death (at high levels)
Consuming food or drink with benzene may cause:
- irritation of the stomach
- rapid or irregular heartbeat
- death (at high levels)