In Monday's post, we mentioned a few occupations at high risk for asbestos exposure on the job. One we did not mention that is mining. Miners face exposure at work mostly because asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral found within the earth. They can be exposed while mining for asbestos itself, or other substances underground.
In the 1800s, several mines were established in the United States to harvest asbestos that would be used in over 3,000 consumer and building products. Without proper protective gear, miners faced prolonged exposure to raw asbestos fibers. Many inhaled and ingested microscopic fibers in large concentrations that could led to debilitating, and often fatal, asbestos-related diseases.
Asbestos mines no longer operate in the United States, but miners are still exposed to asbestos while mining other substances, like talc. Those that live around mines are also at risk for developing asbestos-related diseases, like mesothelioma and asbestosis. The residents in Libby, Montana are still feeling the effects of the town's asbestos-contaminated vermiculite mine.
If you have worked in a mine, do not hesitate to share your work and health history with a medical professional. The symptoms of asbestos-related diseases are often mistaken for other respiratory conditions and can take years or decades to develop. The key to living a longer and healthier life with an asbestos illness is catching the disease early on. If you have been diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease, do not hesitate to contact an asbestos attorney to determine your legal options as a worker or family member of a worker.