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Asbestos deaths: the real death toll may only be starting

Death casts a long shadow over asbestos. The mineral fiber has been the used for various industrial purposes for well over 100 years. While it many of the varieties have only been banned in the United States of little more than 20 years, there is a significant body of scientific evidence that the industry knew of the deadly attributes of the mineral for the majority of those years, and has activity engaged in a well-funded, cynical campaign of misinformation.

The industry has spent millions defending its profits, and spends millions more on an aggressive legal campaigning that often focuses on trivial procedural and technical issues, while worldwide more than 100,000 people die every year because of asbestos-related illnesses, such as asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma.

In the United States, the 100 years of asbestos use casts an ever lengthening, deadly shadow over the population, with asbestos installed in hundreds of thousands of buildings and homes across the nation.

In innumerable ceilings, floor tiles, pipes and heating ducts insulation, in drywall, and roofing shingles, in gaskets, brake shoes and an unimaginable number of long forgotten installations, it sits unhurriedly, awaiting the moment when someone, through inadvertence, ignorance or negligence, cuts, saws, drills,  tears, abrades, or otherwise destroys one of these items, and the asbestos fibers are released.

On imperceptible air currents, the microscopic fibers drift and float, invisible and unnoticed, inhaled deeply into an unwitting victim who how won't know they are a victim for 10 or 30 years.

Lodged deeply in the lungs, the fiber irritates the tissue, and eventually the victim finds they have cough that does not go away. By the time this happens, it is not long before the victim goes away. Killed by fiber from the asbestos that was mined, processed and made some company a great deal of money. And it may still be killing people 100 years from today.

Source: New Republic, "Asbestos Is Still Killing People," Nic Fleming, March 22, 2013

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